§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. DISRAELI
* Sir, before you leave the chair I wish to make a few observa- 638 tions upon our financial position, which appears to mo not altogether free from anxiety. I am the more disposed to take this course, because from what I hear and from what I observe, it seems there is considerable misconception in the public mind upon a subject on which, of all others, the people of this country should entertain accurate notions. We learn from the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we are about to commence this year without a surplus. Now, under any circumstances, this is not a gratifying or satisfactory position. No doubt, there are circumstances in which a Minister of Finance might be justified in proposing such a course to Parliament for their acceptance and sanction. If it were his lot, for example, by a considerable remission of taxation, to relieve the industry and to stimulate the enterprise of the country—if trade were flourishing—if the revenue were rising—if there were every security for internal tranquillity and for external peace, I can conceive that a Chancellor of the Exchequer might feel himself justified in introducing a programme of finance for the year from which the important feature of a surplus should be wanting. I think we must all agree that that is not our position at the present moment. Our trade is not increasing; it is unfortunately diminishing. Our revenue is not rising; it is unhappily declining. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has alluded, in the course of his statement, to circumstances which may diminish the means for employment of the people of this country; and although their conduct under very trying circumstances has justly elicited the approbation and sympathy of all right-minded men, still, if there should be a diminution of their means of employment, that fact cannot be looked upon as an additional guarantee for domestic tranquillity. On the other hand, if we look abroad—if we look either to the American or the European Continent—no one, however little inclined to indulge in a gloomy future, can for a moment assert that the prospect is encouraging. On the state of America it will be unnecessary for me to make a single observation. It occupies all minds, and has been amply touched upon of late. But with regard to the continent of Europe, though for the moment there is apparent quietude, no one can shut his eyes to the fact, that, of all the difficulties that occasioned the war of some few years 639 back, and of all which have since come into operation, not one has yet received a solution. Under those circumstances, it is much to be regretted that the state of our Finances is such that we commence our financial year avowedly with only a nominal surplus. The probable consequences must be apparent to every one in this House. If any of those contingencies occur, which have even been contemplated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—if there be a diminution in our means of employing the people, if the revenue continue to decline, if our trade continue to diminish, if any unforeseen circumstances occur, either on the continent of America or on that of Europe, which may lead to some increase of expenditure in a military point of view, it is clear, that commencing the year without a surplus, we shall be driven to that most unfavourable of all conditions, an increase of taxation, which is already very heavy.
Now, it is impossible at the present moment to evade this question—why is there not a surplus? That is a question which everybody, both in the House and out of it, is asking himself. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech the other night, informed us that he had contemplated that during the last year there would have been a loss, consequent on the repeal of the paper duty, to the amount of £665,000. He went on to say that his Estimate, like his other Estimates, was erroneous, and that the loss last year from the repeal of the paper duty was £865,000. These are the figures, I think, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us.
§ MR. DISRAELI
The figures convey an argument strong enough without any reason being added to them. Now, in this year there is an avowed deficiency of £1,164,000. And it is obvious, if we deduct the sum of £865,000 from this £1,164,000, instead of a deficiency of the sum I have just stated, there would be a deficiency in round numbers, on the year just closed of £300,000. But what would have been our position if the paper duty had not been repealed, as regards the surplus on the present year? In the financial year which has just commenced there will be a total loss under the head of the paper duty of £1,300,000, and if we add to this in our present position the trifling, 640 but not utterly contemptible surplus, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer feebly confessed the other night, we should have had a surplus on the Budget of this year of about £l,400,000—a safe and comfortable surplus; but under the circumstances of the country, with a declining trade, with a diminishing revenue, with the possibility of critical occasions both on the American and European continents—a surplus not a single pound sterling too great for our purposes. Now, Sir, when the repeal of the paper duty was first suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer it was opposed on two main grounds. There were some who, when a surplus was announced by the Minister of Finance, did not think themselves justified in impugning the accuracy of his calculations unless they were prepared to bring forward a Motion which would have been substantially a Motion of want of confidence in the Government. Sir, those Gentlemen, among whom I may count myself, having to deal with a surplus, proposed that instead of repealing a tax the Chancellor of the Exchequer should only reduce a tax, so that no permanent branch of the revenue should be abolished. But, besides those who took that position in the discussion which then occurred, there were others, who, to do them justice, opposed the repeal of the paper duty on the perfectly distinct ground that they questioned the existence of any surplus at all. They reiterated their opinion that circumstances would prove that no such surplus existed. Now, there were two main grounds on which that opinion was upheld by Members of the Opposition. One was the civil war in America. Night after night my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) brought that view before the House. And night after night, to his credit, he endeavoured to impress on the Government that in the then state of affairs in America it was more than probable that critical circumstances might arise that would occasion an increase to our military and naval expenditure in that part of the world. Now, how were these representations, urged with such frequency by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, treated? At first with indifference; ultimately almost with derision. My hon. Friend's suggestions were scoffed at. But what has been the result? The result has been an extraordinary expenditure occasioned by critical circumstances, brought about by the civil war in America, which has exceeded 641 the amount which we have lost by the repeal of the paper duties. Now, what was the second special ground on which the existence of this surplus was questioned, and with regard to which a precise calculation was placed before the House, in contradiction to the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman? It was maintained that the estimate which the right hon. Gentleman had made of the receipts of his China money was perfectly fallacious. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. S. Fitzgerald) who brought forward that subject, and enforced his views with the utmost precision of statement and argument. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had estimated that he should receive from China £750,000. My hon. Friend the Member for Horsham proved by an acute argument, and by a statement apparently founded upon authentic facts, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not receive more than half the amount. What has been the result? Why, instead of receiving £750,000, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has received less than £400,000. And how were the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham received? Why the Chancellor of the Exchequer carried that estimate, I may say, almost on his personal guarantee. It was felt last year, after the assurance given, that if a Chancellor of the Exchequer in a matter of that kind was not to be relied on, it would be almost vain to attempt to carry on public business. I ask again what has been the result? Why, the result is simply a mistake of £400,000. Therefore I think we may fairly conclude that the objections which were urged against the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to repeal the paper duty, even upon the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, were sound ones; and that he was not entitled to take that course has been fully justified by the event. We should give full credit to the hon. Members for Norfolk and Horsham for the prescience which they exhibited on that occasion, and the pertinacity with which they placed their views before the public.
Now the Chancellor of the Exchequer having been so unfortunate in these estimates, it is, I think, a subject of some interest to the House and the country, and may lead to salutary conclusions, if we examine whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer during his management of the finances has been more successful in other matters. This is, fortunately, a sub- 642 ject which depends upon authentic figures. A great rhetorician, when he makes a comprehensive statement, may so charm his audience that when they are leaving the House they may be utterly ignorant as to whether a surplus or a deficiency really exists. But in the sober hour that follows these financial flourishes there is a power of appeal to documents, the accuracy of which cannot be impugned, and from which we can draw conclusions which no one can for a moment hesitate to accept. Now the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night thought the occasion fitting for taking a general review of his financial career, and I will follow his course with great brevity. I think it but due to the right hon. Gentleman to admit, that for the operations of the year 1859–60, he is but partially, and I will even say, not at all responsible. The right hon. Gentleman acceded to office late in the year, and he followed those who had already completed an extensive financial operation which might hamper him, and who left him such considerable engagements and liabilities that he might necessarily have felt embarrassed. The House will, perhaps permit me very slightly to refer to the financial transactions of 1859–60. Early in that year the Government of the Earl of Derby, of which I was the organ in this House, had to encounter the payment of £2,000,000 of Exchequer Bonds, which became due in that year. The then Government were of opinion that it was a matter of great importance that this claim should be met and satisfied. In the preceding year Exchequer Bonds had become due to the same amount, which we felt it our duty to treat in a different manner. This country had, at that moment, scarcely recovered from a most severe monetary crisis. The revenue under those circumstances was tolerably buoyant, for it had been sustained by a stimulus given to consumption by the repeal of the great war income tax. But, notwithstanding all that, the country had suffered most severely from this monetary crisis, and was still suffering. There was apparently a deficiency; but it was a deficiency entirely occasioned by artificial means, by engagements about a new Sinking Fund, the policy of which many questioned, myself amongst the number, and by payments which we were then called upon to make of those Exchequer Bonds, by an arrangement also which at the time many did not sanction. Well, it was certainly most un- 643 wise to put on new taxes to the amount of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 to satisfy what may be called an artificial deficiency at a time when the country, and especially the commercial classes, was suffering from the monetary crisis; and the House entirely sanctioned that policy. It was unanimously approved of, and I think wisely approved of; but the House, and I am sure the Government, were of opinion that it would be most unwise to repeat such a course; and therefore in 1859, when £2,000,000 more of Exchequer Bonds turned up for satisfaction, we resolved that that claim should be met, and it was met; £2,000,000 were taken from the balances in the Exchequer, the state of the balances at that time perfectly authorizing the step, and these £2,000,000 of Exchequer Bonds were satisfied. But there were other matters with which we had to deal in 1859, which entailed a vastly-increased expenditure on the country, and which of course entailed great difficulties upon the individual who was intrusted with the management of our finances. The state of Europe rendered it absolutely necessary that at the end of 1858 and the commencement of 1859 the Government should most seriously consider the state of the Royal Navy. Under those circumstances we were obliged to commence operations on a great scale—to convert a fleet of sailing vessels into vessels with all the improvements of modern scientific invention, and which would be propelled by steam and by screw. All this occasioned a great increase of the Estimates. An hon. Gentleman opposite declared, the other night, that this country had expended £11,000,000 in building wooden ships after the period when France had announced that she would build no more wooden ships. Well, that is a very serious statement, and it may be a true one. All I have to say is, that though the expenditure which was recommended by the late Government with respect to the navy, and which was entirely sanctioned by the House and by the public opinion of the country, was so great, if I am not mistaken, that charge does not apply to us. If I am not mistaken, during that great process not a single new keel was laid down by the late administration. They built new ships: for they built two iron ships, the money for defraying the cost of which appeared in the Estimates. I do not mean to say, and I do not think the House will suppose I meant to insinuate, that if 644 the late Government had remained in office they would have built no more wooden ships. They were obliged to proceed with caution. Up to that time they had only before them the experience of iron batteries. But we did proceed; and when that charge is made, the accuracy of which I am not prepared to impugn at this moment, I think it right to state that it does not apply to us, and that that great expenditure was incurred for a most legitimate purpose; for no one can dispute that three years ago it was just and necessary, and no one can deny that my right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington) has the distinguished merit of being the First Lord of the Admiralty who built iron ships. But, Sir, all this, no doubt, entailed on the Minister who had the conduct of the finances of the country immense difficulties.
Well, Sir, in 1859, under these circumstances, there was a change of Government. I do not wish to refer to the circumstances under which that change of Government took place; they were peculiar. We had brought forward a measure which would have added to the Parliamentary constituency of the country 500,000 educated and responsible voters. But there were some profound statesmen who were of opinion that England was panting for a radical reform of Parliament, and addressing themselves to a new Parliament less experienced in such matters than it is at present, they pursuaded the House by a hesitating and bare majority to pass a vote of want of confidence in Her Majesty's Government, because they were not prepared to introduce a sweeping measure of Parliamentary Reform. That was a successful operation. It brought upon the Treasury bench that distinguished Reformer who now, with folded arms and serene spirit, surveys the scene; and I must say this in justice to the noble Lord and his colleagues against those charges which are so thoughtlessly made against them as to their conduct on the Reform question—the present Ministry were brought in to settle the question of Parliamentary Reform, and in my opinion they have entirely settled it. They have entirely fulfilled their great behest. However, in June—it was not until June—the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was called on to take the management of the finances of the country, and succeeded to all the engagements of his predecessor. Had that Motion not been brought forward to which I have adverted, it would have been my 645 first duty, on behalf of ray colleagues on the assembling of the new Parliament, to have introduced the ways and means by which the expenditure we had recommended would have been met; but the task fell to the right hon. Gentleman, With regard to the measures which that right hon. Gentleman then brought forward we could have but one course, which was to give him, in the difficult position he then occupied, a cordial and unhesitating support. Those measures were adequate to the occasion; they were judicious and they were passed. By passing those measures the right hon. Gentleman found himself, at the conclusion of that financial year—which we had commenced and which he had completed—on the winding-up of the account and drawing up the balance-sheet, in possession of a sufficient, not to any a considerable, surplus. And, therefore, I say that in reviewing the transactions of the right hon. Gentleman, it is partly injustice to himself and partly for the convenience of the House, absolutely unnecessary to revert any more to the year 1859–60, because he really was not morally responsible for the financial transactions of that year; and that year, ending with a surplus, did not at all influence, and did not at all occasion the peculiar and perilous position in which the country now finds itself. Therefore I will take the two years—not the three years, but the two years—in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, unrestricted and uncontrolled, has had the great opportunity of bringing forward the whole of his financial scheme, and has been allowed by an indulgent and admiring House of Commons to steer the financial vessel, I will not say into port or into shallows, but into the peculiar position in which we now find it.
Well these two years have some remarkable characteristics. The year 1861–2, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed us a few nights ago, has terminated in a deficiency of £1,164,000. The preceding year, 1860–1, terminated in a deficiency of £2,558,000. There have been excesses of expenditure since ascertained to the amount of £278,000. And the deficiency of the two years—of the period during which the right hon. Gentleman has been perfectly master of the situation and has not been hampered with any arrangements of his predecessors or the engagements of those who went before him—those two years have resulted in a united deficit of £4,000,000 sterling. I 646 mention this, among other reasons, for this in particular—that the House should understand the cost of luxuries. The French treaty was an admirable performance. No one is against French treaties of commerce if entered into at the right time. Many Ministers before the present Chancellor of the Exchequer have either carried, or endeavoured to carry, treaties of commerce with France. But still, understand that the year of the French treaty resulted in a deficiency of £2,558,000; and the year of the repeal of the paper duty, another equally popular arrangement, resulted in a deficiency of £1,164,000. So, as I mentioned a while ago, there has accrued from the management of the finances by the right hon. Gentleman, during the two years in which he has—unchecked, uncontrolled—given full play to that imagination which has dealt with the resources of the country in so brilliant a manner, a deficiency of £4,000,000. But is that all? Alas! only a small portion of the great achievements of his bright career. In addition to this deficit of £4,000,000, the right hon. Gentleman during these two years has anticipated the resources of the country to the amount of £3,500,000 sterling. Something more than £1,250,000 of the malt credit, £2,000,000 of the income tax, £250,000, half of the Spanish payment—for only half of the Spanish payment was enjoyed by the right hon. Gentleman during these two years—make up a sum of £3,500,000. Therefore this great manager of our finances has, in the course of two years, exceeded the ordinary revenue of the country by seven millions and a half. But is that all? What was the ordinary revenue of the country during these two years when its amount was exceeded by the right hon. Gentleman by the enormous sum of £7,500,000? It was an ordinary revenue, sustained and supported by war taxation—by a war income tax, by war duties upon tea and upon sugar; and swollen and bloated as the ordinary revenue was by these war taxes, still it was exceeded by the right hon. Gentleman during those two years by £7,500,000 sterling. But is that all? It seems impossible that there can be an aggravation of such aggravated circumstances. And yet I can show to the House that hitherto they have not measured the amount of the prodigality of the right hon. Gentleman. For not only has he exceeded during these two years by seven millions and a half the ordinary 647 revenue of the country, and that ordinary revenue sustained by war taxation, but he has done this at a period when the charge on the National Debt had diminished £2,000,000 per annum by the lapse of the terminable annuities.
Now, Sir, I think the House will agree with me that I have laid before them a very serious state of affairs. Immense expenditure; actual and enormous deficit; exhaustion of all extraordinary aids: and this, too, at a period when the political horizon, abroad and at home, is certainly not unclouded. But the House will be curious to know—for, in the blaze of eloquence in which the communication of his financial statement is laid before us, we lose under the wand of the enchanter that necessary information which should guide our calculations—the House would like to know how the deficit has been supplied. We clearly understand how the £3,500,000 of anticipated resources have been diverted; but how has the deficit been supplied? It has been partially supplied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer drawing reckless drafts to the amount of £2,684,000 upon the balances in the Exchequer, which were not even then strong. It has been supplied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for two consecutive years stopping, in Hounslow fashion, repayments of money into the Exchequer, and those repayments of money amounting in the two years to £881,000, being the repayments of loans raised by the country—for instance, the Irish loan some years ago—and which repayments are still making to the Consolidated Fund. It has been further supplied by a positive increase of the debt of certainly not less than £461,000. The balance-sheet for the year is not on the table of the House. I cannot, therefore, give the precise sums; but I am quoting a confession from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his budget speech of last year, when he admitted that he had in fact over-issued Exchequer Bills and Bonds to the amount of £461,000, of course under powers which Parliament had placed at his disposal. If these figures be added together—£2,684,000 by drafts on balances, £881,000 arising from application of repayments, and £461,000 of new debt—the House will find a sum of £4,026,000; and that is the sum which the House will at once see provided for the deficit. Now, Sir, I ought, perhaps, here to remind the House that the balances in the Exchequer in March, 1860, amount- 648 ed to £7,972,000; that the balances in the Exchequer in March, 1862, amounted to £5,288.000; and the difference, £2,684,000, is that sum which, I informed the House, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had drawn out by his drafts.
Well, now, Sir, the House will observe that this is a very critical position for our finances; and it is interesting to remark in what manner the Chancellor of the Exchequer encourages us under the inevitable announcement which it was his duty to make on Thursday last. All that the art of rhetoric could supply to soften facts, to confuse figures, and ingeniously to bewilder the mind of the House, was no doubt had recourse to; but so happy and adroit was the manner of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that although the announcement was not made in that coarse and crude manner in which, it is now communicated to the House, still sufficient was done in some degree to prepare the mind of the public for such portentous results as a deficit of £4,000,000 and an appropriation, or rather I should say, a misappropriation, of £3,500,000 of the anticipated resources of the country, and that during a period when trade and revenue were both declining, and when, according to the Minister himself, the prospects at home and abroad were alike discouraging.
And how does the right hon. Gentleman account for, vindicate, extenuate, these portentous results? First of all, we are told that these two years, during which our finances have been administered in this satisfactory manner, were exceptional years. I deny that they were exceptional years. What were the exceptional circumstances? The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that there was a war with China. Is that an exceptional circumstance? Sir, I have had the honour of sitting a quarter of a century in this House, and I cannot recall two consecutive Sessions in which Parliament has not had to deal with circumstances as exceptional as a war with China. I came in with a Canadian insurrection, which cost the country something. We are now dealing with a Canadian invasion, which every Gentleman in the House knows will cost something. There have been in that period three Chinese wars; there have been two Kaffir wars; there has been a Persian war; there have been, I think, two New Zealand wars; there have been Syrian invasions, which cost something; and there have been 649 Irish famines, which have cost a good deal, but which no one grudged. But, under these circumstances, is any Minister justified in describing a Chinese war as an exceptional circumstance? Ought he not in his calculations to anticipate that some occurrence of an analogous character may happen in the course of the year?
"But," says the right hon. Gentleman, "never mind; the cost has been large, some of you may think the management loose; but although I have not a stick or sliver left"—he told us that—"and although I have mortgaged your resources. and made the greatest deficit ever made by a Finance Minister in alike period, still there is this consolation for you: I have reduced the amount of the National Debt by £4,000,000." I deny that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has reduced the National Debt by £4,000,000. I deny that he has reduced the amount of the National Debt at all. On the 3lst of March, 1860, the funded debt of this country was £785,962,000; the Exchequer Bills were £13,228,000; the Exchequer Bonds, £2,000.000;the total amount being £802,190,000. On the 31st of March, 1862, the conclusion of the two years, our total debt, calculated from the items of funded debt, of Exchequer Bills, and of Exchequer Bonds, was £800,757,000, leaving an apparent diminution of public debt of £1,333,000. I say an apparent diminution, for the diminution was occasioned mainly, not to say entirely, by the action of the public converting a certain amount of our permanent debt into terminable annuities; and therefore I say there has been no reduction of public debt, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer would induce the House to believe. But is there even an apparent diminution? Admitting for the moment that there has been this diminution of public debt to the amount of £1,333,000—what has become of the increase of public debt during that period, in consequence of the Vote for fortifications? Where isthat£1,740,000 which the country has already incurred, and which may be increased to a greater amount? I say, therefore, instead of a diminution of public debt, there has been absolutely an increase of public debt while the Chancellor of the Exchequer has administered our finances.
But, Sir, there is a third source of consolation in the terrible scrapes in which we unexpectedly find ourselves. Exceptional circumstances are an abstraction 650 that I fear will not pass. Reduction of the debt is more material assertion, but then it does not bear criticism. But there is something not so abstract as exceptional circumstances—not quite so easily grappled with in a material sense as the reduction of debt, but still bearing a delightful and popular title, and beneath that cloud the Chancellor of the Exchequer, like other heroes, will cover himself in a position of great peril—that is, an announcement that the epoch of retrenchment has commenced. And then I observed that Gentlemen below the gangway pricked up their ears immediately. The epoch of retrenchment has commenced. Most encouraging. Never mind past disasters; never mind deficits and mortgages; with an epoch of retrenchment we shall soon make up lee-way, and, depend upon it, we shall enjoy all the advantages that have accrued, and still find the finances in a solid condition. I was extremely perplexed to know how that retrenchment was to be effected. Was it to be effected in Chinese wars? The right hon. Gentleman, with playful sarcasm, gave the most amusing narrative in the world of all the expenditure for the last China war; and I could not, for the life of me conceive, during the time, at whom he was directing the laugh. It could hardly be at the great conqueror of China himself, who sat next to him, because he could scarcely be vexed by that narrative, when he remembered that, notwithstanding the fiery denunciations of that costly folly from the benches below the gangway by a distinguished orator, that very individual was now his own Chancellor of the Exchequer, providing the ways and means by which that China war should be carried on. Well, then, is it in the naval and military expenditure of the country that this retrenchment is to be effected? Sir, if that be the case, why not begin at once? Certainly, it seems to me that it is as practicable to have a considerable reduction in our army and navy in 1862—as it probably will be in 1863. Well, Sir, at last I thought—and then I felt immediately it must be a mistake—it might be the Civil Estimates. There was an opportunity a fortnight ago, when some reduction I might have been attempted—a considerable; one—in the Civil Service Estimates. If the House had agreed to stultify the course of Parliament for thirty years, and to have diminished or destroyed the education 651 of the people, a good deal might have been gained. But when I remember the forlorn condition of the Vice President of the Council in that instance, and when I remember the great disappointment of the House because the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not bring to his aid all that impassioned eloquence which is at his command, and which we thought due to the occasion, I felt the Chancellor of the Exchequer had really lost the opportunity for a reduction of the Civil Estimates. I remember the Vice President of the Council was deserted on that occasion, not only by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but by all his colleagues; but exhibiting, I may be permitted to say, if a deficiency of judgment, remarkable talent, and showing throughout that contest versatile ability. Well, then, Sir, if reduction is not to be effected in Chinese wars; in the army and navy; in the Civil Service; in what is it to be effected? Is it in fortifications? We know—at least, it is rumoured—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a most indignant prejudice against fortifications. With that patriotic consistency which distinguishes him, they say nothing in the world will induce him to propose a Vote of the people, a good deal might have b for fortifications; all that he does is to supply the Ways and Means. Well, the House had spoken out on fortifications. The gallant Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne) at the point of the bayonet, took the Government position on that subject the other night, and perhaps it is fortifications upon which the great retrenchment is to be attained. But, unfortunately, we received an official announcement, which, of course, the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed to, that all sums diverted from the construction of forts are to be devoted to the construction of ships; and therefore it would appear that any hope of reduction through the instrumentality of the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this item seems hopeless. But how futile, how illusory, this promised retrenchment really is, was proved in the after part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, when he came to figures. The right hon. Gentleman, when inaugurating the epoch of retrenchment, compared the estimate of the present year with the expenditure of the last, and he says the expenditure of last year exceeds the estimate of the present year by £1,700,000. But what if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would compare the estimate of this year with the estimate of last year? [The CHANCELLOR of 652 the EXCHEQUER: I did so.] Oh ! I will come to your estimates in a moment. The right hon. Gentleman compared the Estimate of this year with the expenditure of last. I say it is moonshine to compare the Estimate of this year with the expenditure of last year. If I am to compare the expenditure of last year, let me have the expenditure of this year. The right hon. Gentleman seems to say that I have not quoted him correctly on the subject of his Estimates. He shall have his own figures, and the House shall have them. In the year 1860–1 the Estimates were £70,100,000, and the expenditure of that year was £72,842,000—error in 1860–1, £2,642,000. The Estimates in 1861–2 were £69,875,000, and the expenditure was £70,838,000—error in 1861–2, £963,000. The Estimates of 1862–3, that we have just had, are £69,120,000; and as the expenditure is not ascertained, I have put opposite to that Estimate a colossal query. But, Sir, if you compare the estimates of this year with the Estimates of last, the diminution is only £750,000, not £1,750,000;and if hon. Gentlemen below the gangway think that a reduction to inaugurate an epoch of retrenchment, they are more easily satisfied than their speeches—Ido not say ! their votes—would indicate.
Well, Sir, having placed clearly before the House and the country our exact financial position—our deficits, our anticipated resources, and the prospects before us—I say that I have shown that the three excuses which were offered by the right hon. Gentleman to account for and extenuate his errors and calm the public mind, very naturally agitated after such a revelation, are utterly flimsy: the expenditure is not exceptional; the debt has not been reduced; retrenchment has not been effected. What if there be a continued decline of the revenue? What if there be that which the right hon. Gentleman contemplates—a great increase in the employment of the people? What if there be that which every gentleman in this House, on either side, contemplates as more than possible—critical circumstances occurring either in America or Europe, which may call for increased expenditure—where are we? Where is our surplus to fall back upon? The abolition of the paper duty was wrung from a reluctant House of Commons, and in defiance of the solemn vote of the other House of Parliament. Whatever may be 653 the folly of Ministers, history may vindicate the wisdom of Parliament. But, Sir, there is a point more alarming even than increased taxation, or than even that account of his financial disasters which could no longer be concealed. The whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman, where he referred to taxation, seemed based on this principle—that the income tax was to be a permanent feature of our financial system. The right hon. Gentleman referred to half-a-dozen other taxes which he could not yet repeal, and to some which he could only soften. The whole tenor of the discourse of the right hon. Gentleman was that the income tax was to be a permanent feature of our financial system. Is that the opinion of the House of Commons? Is that the opinion of the country? reiterate the views that I have myself often expressed. I do not believe that the income tax in its present form can be a permanent tax. Although I have listened to every suggestion that has been made, and weighed them, I trust, with patience and without partiality, I have listened to no scientific solution of the difficulties connected with that tax that would be satisfactory to the Treasury of Her Majesty. The tax remains, unequal, unjust, inquisitorial, and branded with that character of infamy which the right hon. Gentleman himself, in 1853, with such profuse expression, gave to it, and which he made the basis of his most considerable financial measure and his most fallacious. Sir, I think we have a right to expect from the right hon. Gentleman that he should speak frankly on this subject of the income tax. He has no right to fritter away the resources of the country, and leave that tax pressing upon it. Sir, there is something in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman on this head, arid generally on all matters of finance—it is of common custom with him, and I feel it my duty now to notice it—which fills me with perplexity, which I think conveys to the country a sentiment, not merely of perplexity, but of distrust; and it is this—that while the right hon. Gentleman is without exception the most profuse Minister that ever administered the affairs of this country in peace, he is perpetually insinuating—-to use the mildest term—to the House and the country that he disapproves of that expenditure, and is binning to denounce it. Now, Sir, I say that is not a legitimate position for the right hon. Gentleman to occupy. If he disapproves of this profuse expenditure, why does he sit upon that bench, and 654 lend to its enactment and enforcement all the authority of his character and all the lustre of his reputation? If, on the contrary, he approves of that expenditure, then it is his duty, as finance Minister especially, not to disspirit and discontent the people, but rather to animate them under inevitable burdens, and sustain their courage at a time when he may, perhaps, have to call upon them with renewed appeals. But nothing of the kind: the right hon. Gentleman never proposes a Vote—and it falls to him to propose the most profuse Votes that any Minister in a time of peace ever brought forward—he never does this without an intimation that he does not sanction in his heart the expenditure he recommends. But the right hon. Gentleman has gained the confidence and support of a party in this House, not yet very numerous in point of number, but distinguished by talent and perseverance—the party who are for the reduction of our establishments. How is it that that party which preaches retrenchment and reduction—who believe all our Estimates, especially the naval and military Estimates, are much too extravagant, who are opposed to fortifications, and who do not much like iron ships—how is it that this party always support a Minister who is bringing forward these excessive Estimates, and who provides for this enormous expenditure? Well, that is a great question. This, at least, we know, that while this spendthrift is weeping over pence—while this penurious prodigal is proposing this enormous expenditure—he always contrives to repeal some tax to gratify the interests or prejudices of the party of retrenchment. No wonder, then, we no longer hear the same character of the income tax. No wonder we no longer are reminded of that compact entered into by the House and accepted by the country for its gradual and permanent abolition. Unless the House expresses on a fitting occasion its opinion, there is very little hope of our obtaining any redress in this respect. Well, Sir, who will deny that this position of affairs is peculiar and perilous? I remember some years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman was at the head of a small and select party of politicians not then absorbed in the gulf of Liberalism, that we heard much prattle about "political morality." What then most distinguished the right hon. Gentleman and his friends was, their monopoly of that admirable 655 quality. They were perpetually thanking God that they were not as other men, and always pointing their finger at those unfortunate wrights who sat opposite to them. Now we see the end of "political morality." We see the position to which "political morality" has brought the finances of a great nation. I denounce this system as one detrimental to the character of public men and most injurious to the fortunes of the realm.
§ MR. BASS
said, he was anxious to have from the Chancellor of the Exchequer some explanation of that additional taxation which he proposed to impose on all parties who for the future might have anything to do with brewing, whether as common brewers or otherwise. He certainly was rather surprised to find that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman should nave met the other night with such an amount of concurrence, and more particularly was he surprised at the support given to it by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Buxton), who was one of a firm from whom it would have the effect of extracting a capitation tax of £6,000. He could only attribute the hon. Gentleman's support partly to his hereditary generosity and benevolence, and partly to the character of the constituency which he represented. If he had consulted any of the practical persons belonging to the great business with which he was connected, he would hardly have gone so far. He was equally surprised, too, at the concurrence which the proposal appeared to have obtained from the Members for the agricultural constituencies. The hon. Members for Norfolk, Suffolk, and other barley-growing counties could surely not have considered-how their constituents would regard an increase of 14½d. per quarter on barley. He had had that day a statement put into his hands, by an eminent brewing firm, of the practical result which this plan would have on their affairs. Since the 1st of October last they had brewed 305,000 barrels of beer. On this they had either paid, or had made themselves liable to pay, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer £105,000 but in addition to that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make them pay £3,877, for licences for the privilege of carrying on their business. Though they had already paid the tax in the shape of hop duty—for they did brew from hops—the Resolution declared that they should pay over again in the shape of a duty of three pence per 656 barrel for all the beer they had brewed since the 1st of October last. How did the right hon. Gentleman propose to ascertain the liability of the brewers to this tax? Did he propose to have excisemen residing on the brewers' premises, interfering with all their processes? If that were the case, nothing could be more unacceptable to the brewers. He hoped the Gentlemen representing agricultural counties would remember that for more than forty years there had been no abatement of the duties on malt, and yet now the right hon. Gentleman proposed an increase which would amount to about 1s.2½d. per quarter. As had been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had forestalled his resources. Like all other prodigals, he had anticipated what, if he had waited, would have come into his possession. He called upon the maltsters to pay at the end of six weeks what before they enjoyed something like twenty weeks' credit for. He could understand very easily how it was that some of the maltsters supported this shortening of the credit. The Newark maltsters, to whom the right hon. Gentle-man appealed, were all large capitalists, and they knew very well the greater the restrictions imposed on a business the more capital was required in it, and the nearer the business was brought to a monopoly. That sufficiently accounted for the side taken by the Newark malsters. The right hon. Gentleman must have been in error when he told the House that the maltsters had now nine weeks' average credit—he must have forgotten that the charge was made almost as soon as the malt was steeped, but it did not come off the kiln for some weeks after, and then not in a condition fit for use. He could not understand why the brewers alone, of all other trades, should pay for a licence to carry on their business. The principle, no doubt, was a good one if universally applied, and he saw no reason why the cotton-spinner, the farmer, and other trades, should not pay for a licence just as much as the brewer. He did not intend to offer any opposition personally to the right hon. Gentleman's proposition, but he thought the House had given its support to it without knowing exactly what its effect was. A gentleman, named Samuel Jonas, had written to two daily papers a letter, in which he declared he would pay no tax upon brewing from barley which he had grown and converted into malt. The Chan- 657 cellor might exchequer him if he pleased, or might put him in prison, but no such tax, he said, would he pay. The right hon. Gentleman told them the other night that it would be unjust to impose a tax in lieu of the hop duty upon common brewers and not upon private brewers. There would be great difficulty, however, in carrying out the proposal of the Government, and he suggested that a more simple process was to add 1s. 2d. or 1s per quarter to the tax on malt. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would then be able to remove the hop duty, which he admitted was injurious in its bearing upon the counties where hops were grown, without inflicting that injustice upon the brewers which the right hon. Gentleman had proposed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, in such remarks as I shall have to make to the House, I have to deal with two speeches of a very different character, as to the degree of excitement which they are calculated to produce. The speech of ray hon. Friend, who kindly intimated to me beforehand the remarks he was about to make, would, I knew, be the speech of a practical man, fully entitled to the attention of the House and of the Government upon the question with which we are dealing; and as a mark of respect to him I did not rise to address the House immediately after the right hon. Gentleman sat down. With respect to what has fallen from my hon. Friend, I have only to offer a few statements of detail. In the first place, I wish to refer to the sentiments evidently excited in the Committee on Thursday with respect to the best mode of imposing licences on private brewing. I think it was generally felt that it would be unjust to exact from the brewer for sale a certain commuted payment in respect of the hops used, and to leave the private brewer to go scot-free, particularly as private brewers are persons of the greatest means in the country, and likewise because their admirable liquor is copiously and abundantly supplied. Another feeling in the House was that above all things we should avoid introducing into private dwellings the visits of the exciseman. I intend to extend the exemption further—to all manufacturing premises. It was with these views that the Government projected a uniform licence upon private dwellings. But I am bound to say that information, obtained since last Thursday, of a character which we were not able to obtain before the financial statement was made, shows a 658 greater extent of very small private brewings than we were previously aware of. Still adhering to the easy criterion of house and farm rent, we propose to introduce a tolerably simple scale by which the licensing charge will be in accordance with the rent payable for houses or farms. The minimum licence, if the proposition be accepted by the House, which the private brewer will have to pay, will be 5s. The expression "private brewer" is, strictly speaking, inaccurate. I mean a person who brews for his own private use. The exemptions to private brewers who pay under £20 house rent and £ 150 farm rent we propose to continue; and the charge for licences for houses, not farm houses, will rise from 5s. to 40s., according to the rent, by degrees which will be stated in the Resolution. In the case of farms it will rise from 5s. to 20s. Where one person has more than one farm or more than one house, he will be entitled to brew in any or all of them; but he will pay the licence upon that of the highest value. With respect to the question of my hon. Friend as to public brewing, I have one or two points to notice. There is some inconsistency in his observations. He found fault with the Government and the Legislature for having shortened the malt credits, as having thereby abridged the means of the maltster and narrowed the circle of trade by necessitating a larger amount of capital. If that be true, it tells with considerable force against his own recommendation that we should augment the malt duty to make up for the hop duty; because every augmentation of duty has precisely the same effect in necessitating additional capital to meet it. My hon. Friend said it was intended to exact payment twice over in respect of the hop duty. That is not so. A licence duty, as my hon. Friend well knows, is paid in advance for the whole year which it covers. [Mr. BASS: Upon what has been brewed in the previous year.] That is only a test upon which the brewers' licences are fixed for the coming year, and to cover the period of the coming year. At the same time, I think there would be some hardship in exacting from the sale-brewers—especially from those upon whom the increase would be very considerable—that payment at once. We therefore propose to divide the payment of all licences above £10 into two payments, one to be due in the October and the other in the January quarter. My hon. Friend asked whether it was intended to introduce the exciseman into manufac- 659 turing establishments; or, if not, in what manner we propose to obtain these licences. We propose to obtain them by means of the returns which the brewers now make. Every brewer for sale returns to the Excise as the basis for the present licence the number of bushels of malt which he consumes. We propose that those returns shall be made on affidavit, and we have every confidence, having regard to the class of gentlemen who are engaged in brewing, that the arrangement will be perfectly satisfactory. I do not think there are any other points upon which it is in my power to give any information to my hon. Friend.
I come now, Sir, to the historical survey (if I may say so of a speech which was evidently delivered in the impartial and judicial spirit of the historian) of the finances of recent years which proceeded from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The right hon. Gentleman rose in his peroration to a very great altitude, and protested against the mode of conducting the finances of this country, as derogatory to the character of public men. I am sure I feel the obligation under which I lie to the right hon. Gentleman, recollecting the whole of his career, for having taken under his especial protection the character of public men. But I will not enter now into any question relating to the character of public men. I will deal strictly with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I will endeavour to show how far he, forsooth! is trustworthy when he enters on these surveys. He does not resort to rhetorical artifices ! Who ever heard him dealing in figures or sarcasms? It is plain and prosaic information which he delights to lay before the House. That is the information in which he has been dealing to-night, and I must say of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman what was once said of a literary production—I must do him the credit to say that his speech contained "things which were new and things which were true, but the misfortune was that the things which were true were not new, and the things which were new were not true." The right hon. Gentleman points to the deficit of the last year, and he says, "If you had only kept on the paper duty, instead of a deficit of £1,164,000 you would have had no deficit at all, or some small surplus." I do not refer to that remark for its particulars, but for this—there runs through the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the fundamental 660 error which has distinguished his policy and the policy of those whom he leads. They have had no faith in that system of legislation upon which Parliament has been at work for twenty years. They look on the reduction of Customs duties as a loss, and upon the reduction of Excise duties as a loss, and, strange to say, they are not even recovered from their delusion when we show, by the figures of the Customs and Excise, that the effect of those well-chosen reductions has been, not to diminish, but to add to those resources which the public revenue derives from indirect taxation. Can we wonder at the errors of Gentlemen on the back benches when we find the same errors propounded by their leader—by one who, after forming a party upon the basis of Protection, did at a late hour and on a very late day go through the process of acknowledging that he was wrong? Let us recur to the chronological survey of the right hon. Gentleman. He given us a review of three years—from 1859 to 1862. He kindly absolves me from all responsibility for the first of these years. I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I fully admit that he is entitled to a great part of the responsibility of that year as far as regards the creation of charges. As far as regards the preparation of the public Estimates and saddling his successors with the responsibility of making provision for them, the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to a great portion of the credit. But why does the right hon. Gentleman absolve me from the responsibility of the proceedings of that year? It so happens that that year, although a year of large expenditure, was a year of excellent harvest, of circumstances most favourable to trade, and a year of surplus. Although the present Government was the Government which made financial provision for the year, he strikes that year altogether out of the account, and takes credit for his kindness in absolving me from all liability in respect of it, because it so happened that at the close of the year there was a considerable surplus. The right hon. Gentleman then proceeds to deal with the two following years, as he has a perfect right to do. What he has not a right to do is to quote assertions of mine with reference to the three years, and to lead the House to believe that they relate to the two years only. The right hon. Gentleman will not admit that the two last years were exceptional, and on that point he dwells with great emphasis. In former years, he tells 661 us, we have had a Chinese war, a Kaffir war, a Canadian insurrection. That is quite true. It was not in each of the circumstances considered individually that the exceptional character of those two years consisted. It arose from the accumulation of those circumstances, from the combination of an extraordinary war expenditure with Estimates and establishments at home of a much greater amount than had ever before received the sanction of this House in what is known as a time of peace. I want to learn what the right hon. Gentleman will admit as exceptional years. In another part of his speech he found it convenient to assert that the Chancellor of the Exchequer now in office was the most profuse Chancellor of the Exchequer ever known, and had proposed the largest Estimates ever submitted in a time of peace. If that be true, then I say it is undeniable that the years in which such Estimates were proposed were exceptional years. If the right hon. Gentleman has not much pity for others, he is certainly not destitute of that generous sympathy which a man feels for himself. In referring to the proceedings of 1858 the right hon. Gentleman described what he called the "immense difficulties" under which he laboured in making his financial arrangement; but the financial arrangement which, according to the right hon. Gentleman's statement, involved him in this immense difficulty, was a financial arrangement by which he had to provide for the service of the year £63,000,000. That was the amount of the Estimate presented to the House in the spring of 1858, but the expenditure provided for in the last three years on an average amounted, not to £63,000,000, but to £72,000,000. If a rise in the expenditure of the country in two years from £63,000,000 to £72,000,000 in a time of peace does not give those years an exceptional character, I want to know what does. The right hon. Gentleman tells me I am exceedingly unfortunate in conveying information, for it is difficult to extract any from my financial statements. It may be so; but I have certainly not been able to extract a single fact, or even the shred of a fact, from the lengthy statement of the right hon. Gentleman which I did not endeavour, very imperfectly, perhaps, but I to the best of my ability, to impress upon the House on Thursday last. The right hon. Gentleman says the situation is serious and grave. I tried to make the House understand that such was the case. The 662 right hon. Gentleman says we have exhausted our extraordinary resources. I stated, with some fear of wearying the House from the minuteness of detail into which I went, that we had exhausted our extraordinary resources. The right hon. Gentleman is totally wrong in describing the quarter's income tax as being an extraordinary resource in the sense of the malt credit or of sums taken from the balances. The fact is that the taking up of a quarter of the income tax is not the exhaustion of an extraordinary resource, but a very great administrative improvement—for the effect of it is this, that when a Minister proposes an augmentation of the tax, instead of making only one-half available in the year he obtains three-quarters in the year, and he has the finances much more under his control, and under the hand of Parliament than would otherwise be the case. The right hon. Gentleman charges me with having changed my language with regard to the income tax. I meet him by a denial. I have never changed my language with regard to the income tax. I have never stated to the House that the income tax ought to he a permanent portion of the revenue of the country. But I have often, from 1857 downwards, endeavoured to point out that when our expenditure passed beyond a certain point the income tax must become a permanent portion of the revenue of the country What I complain of most is that the right hon. Gentleman, while making his speech for the purposes of party, and exhibiting the financial difficulties of the country, has used the opportunity simply as a means of gratifying his own animosity, and has not given that salutary and wholesome turn to his statements which they might have had if the aim and end of them had been to bring home to the mind of Parliament the danger of an inflated and excessive expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman refers, but not with accuracy, to the deficiency of the two last years, and in particular of the last year. He bases his argument on the view that this deficiency arises in consequence of the improvident proposals of the Government, and the failure of the estimate of the money receivable from China on account of the indemnity, for which he says I gave my personal guarantee. Again—I am sorry to have to do it so often—again I am compelled to meet the right hon. Gentleman in his reference to by gone statements and debates with a positive contra- 663 diction. I know the right hon. Gentleman well—he is a ransacker of Hansard.. When he can find one word which can be made in quotation to serve his purpose, trust him for referring to that word. When the right hon. Gentleman deals with generalities, then may we say, Dolus latet in generalibus As to this assertion that I pledged my personal guarantee for the estimate, I can only say I did not commit such an egregious folly. I told the House last year that the estimate respecting the Chinese, indemnity was one which did, not admit of being tried like estimates in regard to our ordinary revenue at home, but that, we had gone upon the most reliable grounds—the authority of responsible and official persons, in China. When the hon. Member for, Horsham (Mr. S. Fitzgerald) stated either that we should get a smaller sum or no sum at all—I forget exactly which view he took. I replied in these words, "I can only say that to statements of this kind I greatly prefer the responsible reports of the French and English Ambassadors and of their officers, who have made such computations that it is expected the payments will be completed in four years." In regard to an estimate of tins, kind, which only admits of conjecture, I do not see what the Government can do, except to refer to those whom they think most capable of affording a well-informed responsible judgment, and to make known, as I did, to the House, the grounds on which they, found their estimate. I appeal to the. House whether the allusion which I made to the authority on which I rested my calculations in the slightest degree warrants the grossly exaggerated statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that I gave my personal guarantee. Criticism on estimates is sometimes a very agreeable occupation. In criticism on such a question as the receipts likely to be realized from the Chinese indemnity the right hon. Gentleman has shown himself an adept. My estimate on that subject broke down. The right hon. Gentleman, however, has very seldom had estimates to make. I can only recollect two instances in which he has prepared estimates which have been put to the test of experience. These were estimates made with respect, not to China, but to England. Let us see how the right hon. Gentleman, who now, forsooth, cannot bear an inaccuracy in an estimate of receipts from China, succeeded in the only two cases in which he had the opportunity of proving his ability in making estimates. 664 In 1858 he proposed two measures; one was the imposition of a penny stamp on checks, from which he promised £300,000 a year. According to the best information on the subject that tax did not realize £100,000. The other measure which he proposed was a tax on Irish spirits, which he said he would yield at least £500,000. The year went round, and the right hon. Gentleman obtained, instead of £500,000, only £94.000. I would therefore submit to the right hon. Gentleman that, instead of selecting from a multitude of estimates which it has been my duty to make those in which he can find an error, it would be well if he would look at his own two solitary children, and recollect that although they were to be levied within an arm's length in England and Ireland, they did not realize a third of the sums which he confidently promised they would produce.
The right hon. Gentleman has also denounced the "most improvident" proposal of last year for the abolition of the paper duty. That measure is so recent that we have not had an opportunity of judging of its effects on the trade of the country but I do not imagine that the right hon. Gentleman means to say that when the soap duties, for instance, were abolished, a million and a quarter of money was irretrievably lost to the country. The right hon. Gentleman must at length learn, however slow and unwilling he may be, that there is a reproductive energy communicated to the revenue by changes of this kind, which he seems unwilling or unable to appreciate, but which the whole country has recognized; and, without troubling the House with a repetition at large of what I laid before the Committee on Thursday, I ask, can there be a more remarkable proof of the extent of that reproductive energy than this—that in the last four years, two of which have been years of very heavy expenditure, of impaired trade, and of deficient harvests, the revenue of the country has, notwithstanding, shown a power of springing upward, after the reductions which have been made, at the rate of no less than one million per annum, or four millions upon all the four years? But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman says that it was improvident to part with the paper duty. I proposed to part with what was then estimated at between £600,000 and £700,000, and has since turned out to be a larger sum. It was improvident, forsooth to part with between £600,000 and £700,000 of the 665 paper duty. These (pointing to the Opposition benches) were the monitors who told us of all this extravagance ! But what was the course which they proposed—what was the course which they took, and which they endeavoured to force upon the House? It was, instead of parting with £690,000, to part with £950,000 by the reduction of the tea duty. Perhaps, we may be told that the reduction of the tea duty was a reduction that would have recovered itself. But that £950,000 is the sum that would have been lost after the recovery. Besides, I must say that nothing can be more fallacious than these distinctions between reductions of duty and abolitions of duty with respect to self-recovering power. I have heard a most improvident reduction of duty proposed in this House. When there existed all the vexations and mischiefs of a system of excise which could only be justified by the necessity for obtaining a very large revenue from malt, I heard a Minister make the improvident proposal to cut down that revenue to one-half, giving up, thereby, one moiety of the benefit to be obtained, but retaining nil the mischief of the excise. That I call an improvident proposal. But that was a proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman in those golden days of the public finance, when the finances were under his wise direction. [Cries of Oh! oh!] I assume that I have a right to point to the happy operations of the right hon. Gentleman; not, I think, using any greater liberty than that which he has assumed himself, and of which I should be the last man to complain, provided the right hon. Gentleman would be a little more accurate in his references to the past, and, above all, in his quotations and in his history of the statements which he charges upon those whom he opposes. That is the real state of the case with respect to the improvidence of the repeal of the paper duties last year. The right hon. Gentleman said—and in that one statement of his I entirely concur—that opposition to that repeal was made on two main grounds. The one main ground of opposition—I am not now quoting the right hon. Gentleman, but giving my own exposition of his words, my own history of the Session—the first main ground of opposition was, that there was no surplus at all, and the second was, that there was a surplus so large that it would bear a reduction of taxation £200,000 or £300,000 larger than we proposed to make. Those two main grounds of op- 666 position would have been perfectly intelligible if it had so happened that the patriotic Gentlemen who urged them had each given conscientious effect to hi sown opinion by his own vote; but it did so happen when two Motions came to be made against the Government upon the subject, and when, as I have said, it Was proposed to force upon the Government and the House a much larger reduction of revenue than had been proposed—it did so happen that a very formidable minority went out into the lobby with the right hon. Gentleman, and that in that minority was contained nearly every man, including the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck), who, I am sorry to see, has just left his place—very nearly every man who had warned us that the surplus was unreal, that the charges would be increased, and that, in point of fact, we had no money to dispose of.
This is the state of the case as regards the proceedings of last year; but when the right hon. Gentleman says that I endeavoured to compel the repeal of the paper duty I must point out, that although he did not give effect to the repeal of the paper; duty any more than he gave effect to a vast number of things which he has promised during the times he has been Chancellor of the Exchequer, yet he did issue for the benefit of the country a promise with regard to that duty. The right hon. Gentleman, being then the leader of this House, did cause the House to commit itself unanimously to a Resolution stigmatizing the paper duty, and when the Government of my noble Friend had, at the commencement of the year 1860, to come to its decision upon the subject of that duty—for the question then was, as I have often said, whether he should propose the repeal of the duty on paper or the reduction of the duty on tea—one of the main considerations which determined us to select the duty on paper was this consideration—that the right hon. Gentleman had caused the House of Commons to commit itself upon the subject, and had in no inconsiderable degree connected the character of the House with the giving effect to the opinion which it had pronounced. So much for the right hon. Gentleman, and so much for his survey. I wish that I could give to his speech the turn which he did not give to it himself. I am perfectly well contented to be called the most profuse Chancellor of the Exchequer upon record. I am perfectly satisfied to bear any epithets of vituperation which 667 the right hon. Gentleman has produced tonight, or which he may on any future night produce from his copious vocabulary. It is not difficult to bear this species of attack from the right hon. Gentleman, because better men than I have had to bear it. By all means, Sir, let me bear the blame if I am to blame. If there has been an expenditure that ought not to have taken place—if Her Majesty's Government have mistaken the views and feelings of the country, by all means let Her Majesty's Government, and let the Finance Minister of Her Majesty's Government beyond any other, on account of his special responsibility, be called to bear the blame. I, for my part, shall be content, shall be satisfied, if the result of these discussions, of the powerful speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, shall be this—that the House of Commons shall become sensible that the condition of the country with respect to its finances and with respect to the future prospects of our taxation does require its grave attention; that our temporary resources are exhausted, and that we have now arrived at the moment and at the epoch when it is important for the House to consider what the future scale of our taxation shall be.
With regard to the income tax, one word, and one only, before I sit down—because upon that subject I have the happiness of agreeing, perhaps to a greater extent than upon any other, with the right hon. Gentle-roan; that is to say, not with the right hon. Gentleman as he was in 1852, when he proposed one of the most visionary schemes that ever proceeded from the mouth of a Minister in this House, but with the right hon. Gentleman as he has thought upon that subject since he has had time for reconsideration. In my opinion, the income tax, as a permanent engine of finance, is not a secure portion of the public revenue. A high income tax, in particular is a source of danger. Nothing but extraordinary expenditure and extraordinary necessity in my opinion, can justify the maintenance of that high income tax. The income tax which had the force of law a few weeks ago, was an income tax that was imposed, not for the purpose of bringing about commercial reductions, but was laid on in the year 1859 simply for the purpose of meeting the increased and generally acknowledged military wants and exigencies of the country. I have ventured before this time to point out to the House what, in my opinion, is the case of 668 the income tax. I have never yielded assent to the proposition that an income tax must be regarded as a permanent portion of our finance, because I have never been convinced that we might not attain to a state of expenditure when it would be in the choice of Parliament to dispense with that tax or not. If the country can be governed for a sum of about £64,000,000 or £65,000,000 a year, that I believe might be done without an income tax. At £70,000,000, I do not believe that it can.
Then the right hon. Gentleman says that I am endeavouring to cast censure and suspicion upon the expenditure. On the contrary, I know perfectly well that there is no person who is more fully responsible for that expenditure than myself. What I grapple with is the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, that the period through which we have been passing is not an exceptional period. I have stated that it is exceptional, because of the extraordinary expenses for wars and military expeditions abroad; but it has also been exceptional, in my opinion, on account of the vast and the most costly transitions which we have been compelled to make in naval architecture and in the whole system of armaments, and on account, likewise, of those apprehensions in the country which led to great augmentations in the scale of our establishments. I do not despair of reductions, and it is my duty, as Minister of Finance, to point out to the House such hopes as I may entertain upon that subject. On the other hand, I have never presumed to speak of sudden reductions. I have never presumed to speak of immediate and large reductions. I pointed out to the Committee on Thursday that there was a reduction upon the Naval and Military Estimates of this year as compared, not with the expenditure, but with the Estimates of last year. I pointed out that it was a small reduction, but I endeavoured to lay before the Committee a statement as fair, as accurate, and as impartial as I could make it. Whether the right hon. Gentleman has really had the same intention—whether he or I is the more guilty of using rhetorical amplifications and wrapping up our figures in a cloud of words, which are intended or calculated to conceal the real point at issue—these are questions of very small importance. As I have said before, I do not complain of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I would not complain even of the unjust censures of the 669 right hon. Gentleman, if only I might understand that it was the purpose of himself and of those with whom he sits to check that disposition which has prevailed—if with the Government, certainly also elsewhere—towards an excessive expenditure, and, therefore, to give us the enormous advantage of a sound state of public credit, and of that financial health which is one of the main pillars both of the public safety in general, and especially of national defence.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that he should not have risen if it had not been for a remark made by the right hon. Gentleman, the substance of which had been conveyed to him by an hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman referred to him as having last year denied the existence of the surplus, and as having at the same time voted for the repeal of duties, and which was characterized as an act of inconsistency. He was bound to say, without any intended discourtesy, that it was the habit of the right hon. Gentleman when he had a bad case to defend to attempt to mystify the House upon the subject in a manner which was not justifiable. There was no affinity between the proposal to repeal a tax and the proposal to reduce a tax, and the right hon. Gentleman must be perfectly wellaware of that. What passed last year was this. He (Mr. Bentinck) doubted the existence of the surplus announced by the right hon. Gentleman in his financial statement; but his argument was, that if they were to act upon the assumption of the existence of that surplus, in that case the more prudent and the safer course, and that which would be most beneficial to the country at large, would be to reduce taxation upon one of the necessaries of life—a tax which would be reimposed if necessary—rather than to repeal a tax the reimposition of which would be next to impossible That being so, he contended that the charge of inconsistency fell to the ground. Passing from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to his financial proposals they were open to many objections. In the first place it struck him as singular that there should be a proposal to reduce the duty upon playing cards, and it appeared to him that there was no sufficient reason to justify that proposal. It would almost seem that the right hon. Gentleman had an inclination—he might almost say a wish—to promote every system of gambling. Last year he repealed Sir John Barnard's Act, to facilitate the worst system of gambling 670 known to this or any other country, and thereby took away any stigma that there might be upon such practices; and now he proposed to reduce the duty upon playing cards. What was the reason?—because the law as it now stood was always evaded. That was but a lame argument. Surely it would be better to amend the law than to afford facilities for the possession of what ought certainly not to be recommended for public use. The right hon. Gentleman, when talking of the French treaty—upon which he always dilated with so much self-satisfaction—used this singular phrase: he spoke of the "natural wines" which were imported into this country. Now, one of the complaints always urged against that measure was that the wines imported into this country would be anything but natural wines; that they would be abominable compounds, manufactured abroad, and sent over here as French wines. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman would only drink a sufficient quantity, he would probably alter the opinion which he had expressed, that he was "giving the population access to a valuable commodity." The right hon. Gentleman lectured the right hon. Member for Bucks upon the violence of his language, whilst he himself in his budget speech stigmatized all those who differed from him as being under the dominion of obstinacy, folly, and prejudice.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had understood the right hon. Gentleman to say distinctly that his financial measures had been for a long time impeded by the obstinacy, folly, and prejudice of others; and his impression was fully supported by the report of what took place upon that occasion. He need only remind the right hon. Gentleman that for a long series of years he had been subject to similar feelings of obstinacy, prejudice, and folly, and he would ask him whether that portion of his public career to which he looked back with the greatest satisfaction was the time when he abandoned those opinions. He was not prepared to say whether the long dissertation on the Chinese War had been acceptable to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, but the House must have been struck with the great inconvenience of what were called Coalition Governments, and the disadvantage of having assembled on the Treasury benches a number of distinguished men who were diametrically 671 opposed to each other on alt great public questions. The right hon. Gentleman, quoting Sidney Smith, then led them into a more particular view of the subject. He mentioned, as a matter of congratulation, a number of articles formerly taxed, but which were now exempt from taxation. He congratulated the corpse that the coffin nails were untaxed, and the criminal that he was hanged with untaxed rope. He (Mr. Bentinck) had no wish to interfere with the full sense of enjoyment which both those parties must experience; but, following out the simile in the case of the bride whose wedding ribands were no longer taxed, he felt sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer reflected as little on the consequences of his policy as the bride thought that her husband would have to pay income-tax, or that her children would possibly be saddled with legacy duty. Ribands had become cheap, but did the right hon. Gentleman think that an adequate return for the misery and starvation inflicted on thousands of weavers? The un-English and inhuman financial policy pursued in this country for some years past had been productive of suffering to a large proportion of its inhabitants, whose wants and feelings had not received that attention to which they were entitled from those intrusted with the management of financial affairs. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had referred to the paper duty, and had gone out of his way to give him (Mr. Bentinck) credit for having shown prescience upon that question; but, indeed, the only prescience shown by him had been shared by the great majority of the country and of that House; for there was not a man in that House who did not know that the Vote for the repeal of the paper duty was given in the teeth of the opinions of a large majority of the House. That ought to open the eyes of the people to the fact, that their best interests were frittered away in the interests of party. He stated last year, that if the paper duty had not been brought forward as a party question, the majority against its repeal would have been as many as sixty; but he had since heard the opinion advanced in a quarter which was entitled to the utmost respect, that if such considerations had not been brought to bear, and if the repeal of the paper duty had been introduced simply as an abstract financial measure, the majority against its abolition would have been above 100. He hoped, that when it became publicly known 672 that upon that particular question the financial interests of the country were sacrificed for a party struggle, the result would be that those who returned Members would impress upon them that their duty was not simply to act in party struggles, but to represent the interests of those who sent them there. But returning to the right hon. Gentleman, he must say that the question? How long was the cotton crisis to endure; was a singular question to come from a Member of the Government upon whom the continuance of the crisis depended. If the Government had thought proper to recognise the Southern states, and to have done away with the nominal paper blockade, the crisis and the distress would have disappeared. The real fact was that the crisis was perpetrated because the "friends of the people" were taking the part of capital versus labour. It was for the interests of capitalists that there should not be just now a large importation of cotton; whilst it was for the interest of labour that this importation should take place. The Government had the means of removing the distress in the manufacturing districts by recognising the independence of the Southern states. The right hon. Gentleman had also said, that the present amount of taxation was above that which could be borne with satisfaction and comfort by the people; but if that was his opinion, why was he upon the Treasury bench? Why was he not sitting below the gangway—not, indeed aiding the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) in removing taxation, for that hon. Gentleman confined his efforts to making speeches, and when money was voted he was generally absent—but why did he continue in the Government? How could he reconcile his denouncing that expenditure of which he was himself the origin? Would the people of the country have the slightest faith in any opinion which the right hon. Gentleman might express upon the subject of extravagance, when he of all others was most responsible for that extravagance? His position ought to be below the gangway, and until he removed to that more convenient locality he had no right to expect that the slightest reliance would be placed upon any statement of his in favour of economy. He had simply to say, in conclusion, in reference to one of the details of the financial scheme—that which related to the imposition of a licence duty on private brewing—that the proposal was one which, as it at present stood, would operate with great 673 injustice on a portion of the community—the class of small farmers—about which the right hon. Gentleman was not in the habit of showing himself to be very solicitous. The exemption from the tax was in favour of persons who occupied houses of less rent or value than £20 a year, and tenant farmers renting land at a rent less than £150 a year. There was no affinity between these two classes of exceptions, for the exemption was much more in favour of the town than it was of the country. To equalize the two cases his impression was that they ought to extend the exemption: to farmers so as to include in it those who paid as much as £250 a year rent, or that they should, without any reference to farmers as a class, exempt all who lived in houses worth less than £20 a year. His intention was at a future time to propose an Amendment, exempting all farmers who did not pay more than £250 rent.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he wished to say a few words in explanation. The hon. Gentleman had stated that on a former night he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had used the terms, "obstinacy, folly, and prejudice" in reference to Gentlemen in that House; but the truth was, that when using the words he was not at all referring to proceedings in that House. What he said was that the French treaty had done much towards making commercial intercourse what it ought to be, and different from what the obstinacy, folly, and prejudice of men would have made it. He repeated that he did not at all refer to what had taken place in that House
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer; to admit the existence of a deficiency to the amount of £1,164,000 on a comparison of the revenue and expenditure for the year ending the 31st of March, 1862. He should wish to know how the right hon. Gentleman proposed to meet that deficit. Did he intend to meet it by a reduction of the balances, or carrying the amount into the accounts of the current year? If the latter, then what became of the small surplus which was claimed for this year? There were also some reasons for believing that there were outstanding charges which were very much in the nature of charges in the Miscellaneous Estimates for this year There was £35,000 for surveying in America; £79,000 for expenses incurred ! in British Kaffraria; and£25,000 for Vancouver's Island. There were other 674 similar charges, and he wished to know whether any inquiries had been made on these important subjects. There were fifty places connected with the British Empire where the person holding the command, whether the Governor or the chief military officer, might incur expense without the knowledge of the Government at home, and, still more, without the knowledge of Parliament. That was done through the Treasury chest. For several years an account had been running up for Indian troops employed in China. Those troops were employed, not during war, but during peace, and therefore the expenditure did not come within the Vote of Credit. The last time he saw the account the balance amounted to £154,000. Sooner or later that sum must be provided for by Parliament; but, if so, what became of the surplus? There were other outstanding charges of the same kind. He could not believe, looking at what had taken place in New Zealand and Canada, that we had discharged all our obligations in those places; and what he wanted to know was whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer had fully considered these matters in connection with his general financial arrangements. The right hon. Gentleman had reckoned as revenue a charge of £255,000 upon the Indian Government for the non-effective services. He could not understand how that money could fairly be treated as revenue. It was an anticipation of a resource which might be available some years hence, rather than a resource actually available in the current year. These various points threw considerable doubt upon the financial statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he was afraid they would lead to the production of a supplementary budget, which was a thing always to be deprecated.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he was not one of those who thought it was the duty of hon. Members to vote for every remission of taxation which might be proposed, and then leave to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the odium of maintaining taxes upon the people. If there was one duty more than another incumbent upon those who sat on the ministerial side of the House, it was that of sharing frankly in the grave responsibility of imposing taxes upon the country. He had been much pressed to vote for the repeal of the duty upon hops; but he had always answered, that although he thought the hop duty one of the most inconvenient that could be suggested, yet 675 he never could support its repeal until he saw what was to be substituted for it, so as to make good the revenue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had dealt with the question in a manner that ought to commend itself to the House; for, in remitting a duty which was quite indefensible in its character, he had substituted another duty which, without being oppressive to the people, left the production of the article, which was indirectly taxed, very much where it was before. No doubt, the simplest substitute for the hop duty would be an increase of the duty upon malt, because the duties upon hops and malt were merely taxes upon beer; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have felt, that if he proceeded in that manner, he would be met by an amount of prejudice on the part of the growers of barley which would render the success of his proposition altogether hopeless. So the right hon. Gentleman had been driven to a complicated system of taxation upon brewers, and the question of licensing was the main feature of his financial scheme. Now, in theory, the system of licensing was one of the most unjust that could possibly be adopted. Formerly, when the smallest licence for brewing cost £1 10s. for 1,000 barrels, the number of persons licensed to brew was restricted to,700. In 1825 the law was altered, the lowest licence being reduced to 10s. for liberty to brew some 20 or 30 barrels of beer, and the scale at the same time being made more gradual. What was the effect of that change? Why, the number of brewers was almost immediately increased to 48,000, showing the depressing effect of the licensing system. The Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposed to increase the minimum licence from 10s. to 12s. 6d. One would rather have expected the right hon. Gentleman, considering his principles, to diminish it from 10s. to 5s. The right hon. Gentleman, not content with enlarging the minimum of the tax, proposed to extend his licensing system to every private brewer, although the fact was, according to returns on the table, that the private consumption of malt was an inappreciable fraction of that consumed by the licensed brewers. Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman proposed to grant special licences for three days for the occasional sale of exciseable liquors. Did he intend to confine these Special licences to cases in which a licensed victualler could now by law sell exciseable articles, or was an indefinite power to be given to the Excise to grant those licences 676 as they thought fit? If such a power was granted to the Excise on every occasion of a game of Cricket, or any other out-of-doors amusement, all the publicans in the neighbourhood would be hurrying to the scene and plying the people with gin and beer, thus converting what was intended as a healthful recreation into the occasion of intemperance and vice. He submitted such an extensive change—the laws affecting the morality of the people—should not be left at the discretion of the Excise, whose only object was to obtain the largest amount of revenue, and with that view to drench the public with exciseable articles. This right hon. Gentleman proposed another extension of the licensing system which was alike uncalled for and inexpedient. He meant as regarded the licensing of every man who sold a pack of cards. Every stationer sold a pack of cards now and again, and he must now be licensed to do so. When the duty was 1s. 6d. per pack, there was no such licence; but now the duty was to be reduced to 6d. per pack, and when the chances of fraud were diminished, the dealer must take out a licence. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would do well to abandon that system of attempting to collect a small revenue by a policy of irritation which would cause great unpopularity to the Government, but have no practical result.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he rose to represent a case of injustice in the proposed mode of carrying out the repeal of the hop duty. The matter had been represented to him by a brewer who in the city he represented was as well known as the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) was in London. He meant Mr. Guinness. The point complained of was that the brewers would not, in the scheme proposed, get the drawback unless they exported their stock of hops On hand. Whenever the malt duty had been increased or diminished, it had been customary to take an account of the stock on hand of malt, and charge the brewer with what he had in the event of an increase of duty, or allow him the drawback if the duty was diminished Another question which he wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer was whether he intended to extend these private licences to brewing in Ireland; if so, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that it would prove a complete dead letter as regarded that country. He wished to take that opportunity of congratulating the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the success of the French treaty. 677 He had opposed it when it was first brought forward, because he considered that it did not obtain for us the same advantages as we surrendered, and he still thought that the terms of the treaty as then presented to the House justified that opinion; but the French Government had subsequently made reductions in some of the duties; and he was satisfied that as the two nations were brought into closer intercourse the larger would be their trade and the greater the benefit that would accrue to each of them.
said, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had not been very consistent in the attack which he had made upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer for in none of the Motions which they had made in favour of economy had hon. Members below the gangway ever received much support either from the right hon. Gentleman or from the party he led. When it was represented that France was building a great number of ships, and had, views of invading this country, no one stirred up the flame so much as hon. Gentlemen opposite; and the Government was too often goaded on to expenditure by the leaders of the party on the Opposition benches. He confessed, too, that under the circumstances of the case, and the pressure brought upon him by both sides of the House, he did not see how the Chancellor of the Exchequer was answerable for the public expenditure. The noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty came down to the House and asked for £12.000,000 for the navy, and the House at once granted the money. Positively the whole £11,400,000 had this year been voted in four hours—£5,000,000 of it in five minutes. Then, again, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for War came and asked for £15,000,000 for the army, and the House ran through the whole of those immense Estimates in two or three nights. It seemed to him (Mr. Lindsay) that under these circumstances the Chancellor of the Exchequer had nothing to do but to pay the bill, and that the blame, to a great extent, rested neither with the right hon. Gentleman nor with the Government. There was one point, however, with respect to which he thought the Government censurable. It had been known for some years that iron ships exceeded wooden ships in power. Reports had been sent to the Admiralty to that effect, and there was evidence showing that since 1856 the French Government had 678 not laid down one wooden ship of any kind. It was clear to any reflecting mind that an armour-plated ship was capable of destroying a whole fleet of wooden ships; yet in spite of that the Admiralty had gone on from year to year spending immense sums upon wooden vessels. In 1856–7 the sums voted for wages in the dockyards had been £1,190,000, and for stores, £2,447,000; in 1857–8, wages, £987,000; stores, £1,464,000; in 1858–9, wages,£989,000; stores, £1,484,000; 1859–60, wages, £1,500,000; stores, 2,800,000; 1860–1, wages, £1,440,000; stores, £3,204,000; 1861–2, wages, £1,112,000; stores, £3,490,000. He could not say exactly how much of these sums was for wooden ships, but he found that during the last year £949,000 had been spent on timber alone; and he calculated that the whole sum spent during the last six years on wooden ships could not be set down at less than £8,000,000, which he contended had been virtually thrown away. The Government had gone on, in spite of every remonstrance, and in spite of the example set them by France, lavishing the money of the people upon vessels which for purposes of warfare were admitted to be worthless. Two years ago it was proposed to make a large expenditure for dockyard defences; and in the list of the thirty-nine who by their votes protested against that expenditure he did not find the name of one of the hon. Members sitting on the front Opposition benches. The large expenditure incurred upon fortifications was also most injudicious, as fortifications constituted no adequate defence against iron-plated ships. He also much condemned the Admiralty for not introducing extensive administrative reforms in our dockyards, as the result of the Commission and the Select Committee which had inquired into that subject; and he maintained, that if that course were adopted, it would be possible to make ten millions of money go as far as twelve millions now went.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
said, he could assure the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that it was perfectly possible to impugn the conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer without desiring to bring down the expenditure upon national defence to a point lower than it then stood; and certainly he had not understood the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire to express himself in any other sense. He know not whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer would accept in his defence the 679 constitutional doctrine of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay), but undoubtedly a stranger one had seldom been broached in that House. According to the doctrine of that hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was simply a banker's cashier, who had to pay whatever the First Lord of the Admiralty or the head of any other department might demand. Had the hon. Member never heard of that salutary institution, the Cabinet? He wished the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say distinctly and categorically whether he approved or disapproved the amount of the Estimates. If he approved it, why did he lose no opportunity of denouncing and discrediting it in that House? If he disapproved it, why did the right hon. Gentleman not say so when the Estimates were adopted by the Cabinet? The right hon. Gentleman always spoke as if some major force were laid upon him in this matter—as if he were acting as the slave of some higher power, and as if he only wished he could, by suggestions and inuendoes, irritate the House and the country into sparing him the necessity of proposing Estimates which in his heart he disliked, and would be glad greatly to curtail. The explanations given of his conduct in that respect by the right hon. Gentleman that night were scarcely a sufficient answer to the charges which had been brought against him. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed entirely and carefully to avoid the question whether or not he was to be held as a willing or an unwilling participator in the expenditure which he was continually hinting to the House was lavish, profuse, and almost profligate. The right hon. Gentleman's answer appeared exceedingly inadequate on another point—namely, with regard to the taxes which he had used his power to fritter away, and which in their then moment of need they required so much. The House was about again to vote the 9d. income tax, and there was no doubt that that, and more than that, would probably be wanted for the service of the country. But one naturally inquired what had become of those taxes which, before the right hon. Gentleman acceded to office, were available for filling up the gap which the income tax was now required to fill. The right hon. Gentleman asserted that it was illogical and fallacious to say that these taxes had been thrown away; that those who said so had yet to learn, and that the country itself would teach them, that they had not 680 been thrown away, but that by the remissions which he had effected he had raised the rest of the revenue, and consequently made up for the taxes that had been lost. That doctrine the right hon. Gentleman had again and again reiterated, describing it as the doctrine of the reproductive energy of the revenue; and it might, in fact, be regarded as the cardinal point and essence of his financial policy. Now, it might be well to bring that doctrine to the test of a very few figures. The right hon. Gentleman said that his remissions during the last two years had stimulated the reproductive energy of the revenue; and he had mentioned, as a wonderful circumstance, that the remaining revenue of the country had risen a million a year under the influence of those remissions. He had further informed them the other night that the Customs had been reduced by the amount of £2,400,000, but that out of that sum he recovered something like £1,600,000 within two years. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, used the fact that the revenue had improved £800,000 in each year as a proof of the soundness of his financial policy and the wisdom of his remissions. In order to ascertain whether or not that was so, the point to discover was, what was the normal increase of the revenue if the taxes had been left alone? They all knew that the revenue constantly grew with the growth of the wealth and prosperity of the nation. The question was, in what proportion did it grow? It was not very easy to find a year in which some remission or other of indirect taxation was not made; but it so happened that the year which preceded all these changes was a year in which there were no such remissions, and consequently it would furnish a test of the rate at which the revenue increased if left alone. Well, what were the facts? In 1858–9 the Customs and Excise together yielded £36,794,000; in 1859–60 they reached £39,114,000. That was a growth in one year of more than £2,300,000, or in the proportion of one-sixteenth. The year 1858–9 was not an exceptional one; on the one hand there was a good harvest, on the other a war leading to the curtailment of commercial operations. The right hon. Gentleman was proud of his Customs revenue having increased £800,000 a year in spite of the remissions he had made. The Customs revenue which the right hon. Gentleman left behind, after the changes which took place in 1860, was about 681 £20,000,000; and if he had left them untouched, and allowed them to grow at the rate they had grown in previous years—namely, one sixteenth, the annual increment would have been £1,250,000, instead of £800,000. He did not say for a certainty that the remissions of taxation had injured the revenue or prevented its increase; but he wanted to commend those figures to the consideration of hon. Gentlemen, in order to disabuse them of the idea that the growth of the revenue was the necessary result of those remissions. As a matter of fact, the figures proved that in spite of the remissions which had been made in 1860 the revenue had grown, but at a much slower rate than it had done the year before.
The right hon. Gentleman had also tried to show that throughout the whole period of his financial policy the growth of the revenue and the growth of public prosperity; had been due to remissions of taxation, That was a fallacy, for the real state of the facts was this, that in other countries, where there had been no remissions of taxation and no new commercial policy, the increase of prosperity was more rapid than in England. In England the exports between 1846 and1856 increased only 96 per cent; in Austria they increased 124, and in France 159 per cent. Those facts conclusively showed that they must have recourse to some other cause than a revised commercial policy to account for that marvellous increase of wealth which not only England but other nations had enjoyed for the last fifteen years. The main cause of that increase was, he thought, to be found in the wonderfully-increased means of communication. In consequence of improved facilities of communication business could be done in half the time that it formerly took, and therefore people could put their capital to use much more frequently. A larger annual return for that capital was the natural consequence. If commercial prosperity had been the result of a remission of taxation, it would have been confined to England alone. He had, however, shown that in other countries of Europe, where there was no such remission of taxation, the commercial prosperity had increased considerably more than in England.
The right hon. Gentleman the other night brought into a focus, as he called it, the financial policy of the last three years, and presented the results to the House; but he omitted some of the darker rays, which ought to have been taken into consideration. 682 What the country would ask, upon seeing the present budget, was whether it had been a loser or a gainer by the financial policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and what the result would have been if he had never been Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the right hon. Gentleman took office, the income tax was 5d. in the pound; now it was 9d.; thus, £4,000,000 additional was raised. If they looked to the indirect taxes which the right hon. Gentleman had remitted or reduced, they would find that they came to very much the same amount: £1,300,000 paper duty, £2,420,000 Customs, and £100,000 hops, would give very nearly that sum, and then the natural growth of the revenue would do the rest. What he wanted to impress on the House was, that that fact would throw some light upon the great success which the right hon. Gentleman alleged had attended the operations of the commercial treaty entered into with France. Now, the £4,000,000 additional raised by the income tax was taken from a class of persons who had never paid it before, and who got no return from it. By the help of that £4,000,000, the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, enabled a large number of persons to set up a profitable trade, and those persons, very naturally, were loud in their panegyrics of the success of his commercial policy, and the French treaty. What the right hon. Gentleman had done was this—he had said to all the holders of fixed incomes, to curates, clerks, farmers, and all who were not engaged in trading operations, "You shall pay 4d. in the pound more than you have paid me before, and with that money I will enable certain estimable people in a great number of the commercial towns of England to open trade which they would never have been able to do before." If money was taken from one interest and given to another, the latter of course would be very prosperous, and that was all that the right hon. Gentleman's commercial policy had achieved. Those who had benefited in that way were perfectly right in praising a policy to which they owed so much, but they were not right in speaking as though the £4,000,000 by which they had profited had been dug out of the earth or thrown down from the sky;—it was really taken out of the pockets of a class who had never paid it before. If it were the necessities of the people that had been relieved by that policy, there would have been something to say for it; hut it was off silks, wines, gloves, and paper that the 683 duty was taken and therefore it was not just to say, as the right hon. Gentleman was constantly saying, that they had used the opportunity of the falling-in of the Long Annuities to confer blessings on the people. The sentence that they must pass on the policy of the right hon. Gentleman for the last few year was this—that he had crowded into a couple of years that which ought to have taken ten or twelve years to accomplish. Had the right hon. Gentleman waited for the ordinary falling-in of the revenue, all that he had done could have been effected in the course of time without raising the income tax from 5d. to 9d., and without imposing the extraordinary burdens under which they were labouring. The right hon. Gentleman had that night claimed to be a successor of Sir Robert Peel, and had also alluded to his claim to be the successor of Mr. Pitt; but there was one main difference between the policy of those great statesmen and that of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had rightly stated that the income tax must be used either for purposes of commercial reform, or for aiding the country in supporting the burden of a great war. Mr. Pitt used it under the pressure of a great war; Sir Robert Peel to carry out commercial reforms; but the peculiarity of the right hon. Gentleman had been that he had united the two objects, and had imposed upon the country the burden of the income tax for the purposes at once of war and of commercial reforms. It might be said that that was a light charge to bring against the right hon. Gentleman; but the course of financial wisdom was different. Every error that was committed, every precipitate step that was taken, inflicted a fearful amount of injury at the time, which could never afterwards be remedied. The shock of his measures was felt most severely by those who had no capital to fall back upon and no luxuries to retrench. At first sight the income tax would appear to rest only on the better classes; but that was not so; its certain effect was to force the employing classes to employ less, to retrench their expenditure in a hundred ways, and every one of those ways fell hardly upon the poor. He feared the sufferings which the poor were going through at that moment were the ultimate results of the right hon. Gentleman's policy. He chose, for the sake of his own fame, to compress into one year what ought to have been the work of several. The pauperism of the country was 684 increasing. On the first of July there were 10,000 able-bodied paupers more than the average, and that was only a sign of what the right hon. Gentleman's policy had effected throughout the whole country. It was true that some manufacturing interests had derived advantage from the French treaty, but it must be remembered that all did not live by exports. Some Gentlemen seemed to think that the exports were the only test of our national prosperity; but that was not so. It was possible to give foreign trade an artificial stimulus whilst there was an increasing misery in the heart of the country. There was no part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which he had heard with greater satisfaction than the expression of his opinion that the time for such dealings with finance had now come to an end, and that it would be unwise in future to generalize the maxims which he had heretofore laid down.
§ MR. BALL
said, he should not have ventured to trespass on the attention of the House had it not been for the observations of the hon. Member for Sunderland, who taunted the Opposition with having supported the Navy Estimates of the Government. He (Mr. Ball) did not consider that his side of the House were deserving of any reproach because they had not endeavoured to cut down what the Government asked for for the naval deportment. He thought that the whole property of the country could not be considered secure unless they had a powerful and an efficient navy; and, therefore, that the last thing which islanders ought to do was to diminish or weaken the strength of their navy. The money raised by taxation to maintain an efficient navy was a sort of premium paid for securing the property of the whole country. Instead, then, of opposing the requirements of the Government for that purpose, the party with which he (Mr. Ball) was connected was more disposed to facilitate and encourage the action of the Government when directed towards the object of improving the efficiency of the navy. He suggested to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider the propriety of withdrawing the 12s. 6d. licence tax from a gentleman who chose to brew his own beer. It would be most obnoxious to country gentlemen, clergymen, and dissenting ministers, who could not afford to drink wine. A man who brewed twenty barrels of beer would be relieved of 2s. 6d. by the repeal of the hop duty, but would have to pay 12s. 6d. for permission to brew. But 685 suppose a gentleman brewed without taking out a licence, was every house to be visited by the exciseman and rendered liable to a fine? Such an inquisition would be intolerable; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not withdraw that portion of his measure now, he would be forced by the voice of the country to withdraw it after it had come into operation. He had only one other observation to offer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken: of the advantage arising from the French treaty, not only from the increase of exports and consequently increased employment in their manufactories, but from the moral benefit to arise from the friendly intercourse to result from it; but it had always appeared to him (Mr. Ball) that in proportion as their exports to France increased would there be a discontent and ill-feeling generated in the minds of the French manufacturers, whose goods would be thereby displaced from the market.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that after the excellent answer which his noble Colleague (Lord Robert Cecil) had given to the hon. Member for Sunderland, he need hardly enter into that point; but he must protest against the doctrine put forward by the hon. Member, which had been cheered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and which was certainly a comfortable doctrine for any Government to have held concerning them—namely, that if the Estimates were too large it was the fault, not of the Government, but of the House. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I did not cheer it. He was glad to hear it; it was certainly cheered by some one in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's immediate neighbourhood: and it was evident that some hon. Gentlemen thought that it furnished on answer to the criticisms of It is right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli); but that was not the point at issue; nor, with all submission, was the doctrine of the hon. Member for Sunderland the true doctrine which should be held upon the subject. It was said that his right hon. Friend was inconsistent inasmuch as he did not vote with the hon. Member (Mr. Lindsay) for the reduction of expenditure. But it was a serious thing for independent Members to vote against Estimates which were framed by the Government with a full knowledge of the facts, and which they, as responsible advisers of Her Majesty, declared were necessary for the public service. The hon. Member had alluded to the forti- 686 fication Vote, but what had passed upon that subject? One of the most eloquent and influential independent Members in that House (Mr. Horsman) brought forward the matter two year ago in an able speech, but the Government opposed him, and he was beaten on a division by two to one. Next year the Government themselves brought forward a similar measure, and then not forty hon. Members voted against it. That showed that the House did not force measures upon the Government, but that hon. Members were not disposed, with the insufficient information which they necessarily possessed, to take the responsibility of voting against the Government in such cases. But that, after all, was not the question raised by his right hon. Friend, who had neither alleged that the expenditure was too large nor that it was too small, but had shown that, large or small, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had failed to provide the means for meeting it. That was the real point which the House had to consider. Whether the expenditure was £70,000,000 or £75,000,000, it was the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide the means to meet it. Now, when the Government submitted large Estimates, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to take off considerable taxes, they were led into an expenditure which they probably would not have sanctioned if they had not believed it to be quite consistent with the remission of burdens. Some strange doctrines had been laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his observations. They did not amount to a reply upon the speech of his right hon. Friend; and, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer really expected hon. Members to believe them to be a reply, he must have a low opinion of the logical power of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman told them, for instance, that the repeal of the paper duty was no loss. That was a strange doctrine. His right hon. Friend had said that there would have been a smaller deficit if the paper duty had not been repealed, adding, "You have a nominal surplus for the year to come; there would have been a real surplus if the paper duty had been retained." Upon that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "You are entirely mistaken, You fancy that the repeal of the paper duty is a loss to the revenue, but it is no such thing;" and he illustrated that by reference to the repeal of the soap duty. But the question 687 was, did they not by that remission lose revenue in the past year, and were they not going to lose revenue in the coming year from the same cause? If the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant that in 1870 they would find themselves with just as good a revenue without the paper duty as with it, very likely he was right. Perhaps they then had a larger revenue owing to the repeal of the soap duty eight or nine years ago. But what the House had to look at was the present moment. He could not understand how, in one breath, they could be told that the deficit was caused by a mistake about the drawback, or something of that kind, and in another that in speaking of the loss consequent upon the repeal of the paper duty they were talking of that which they did not understand. Perhaps the House of Commons were not altogether adepts in matters of political economy, but they could understand the plain proposition that the revenue of the present year and the year to come had suffered and would suffer from the repeal of the paper duty. As to the remark of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the past two years were exceptional years, it was perfectly true, that if they looked back through a long series of years, beginning, perhaps, with 1816, they might be called exceptional. But what the House wanted to know was, not whether they were exceptional years upon such a long retrospect, or with reference to what might be the case in 1870, but whether they belonged to a period of which it could be said, "It was an exceptional period, and it is past;" whether such years might not, on the contrary, continue to recur, and whether there was not every probability of their recurring for some time to come. What the House knew, at all events, was, that in these exceptional years they had had recourse to exceptional resources. He would recommend the House not to overlook the character of these exceptional years, and he was anxious to call attention to what had been going on during the large number of exceptional years through which the country had been passing. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) had confined himself to the financial aspect of the last two years. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Three years.] His right hon. friend had been asked by the right hon. Gentleman to extend his review to the last three years. Even with that extension of the period the right hon. Gentleman had been greatly mistaken in the Estimates he 688 had made, as compared with the results. On the first of these years the Chancellor of the Exchequer had estimated a surplus of £250,000. while he really had a surplus of £1,587,000. In the next two years the estimated surplus was £464,000 and £408,000, while the realized deficiency was £2,500,000 in one, and £1,200,000 in the other. The right hon. Gentleman did not deny that; he only said that other people were mistaken, and then he referred to the year 1858. But his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) had, he thought, no reason to be ashamed of any reference to the year 1858. It was true that he was deceived in his estimate of the produce of some small taxes. Every Chancellor of the Exchequer was liable to such errors. But his right hon. Friend estimated a surplus of £310,000, and he got a surplus of £813,000. That was a very satisfactory sort of miscalculation, and made up for any mistakes his right hon. Friend might have made in regard to bankers' checks and Irish spirit duties. Passing over these more recent years, however, he was anxious to call the attention of the House to what had been going on during the last eight years. During that period there had only been two years in which there had been a surplus. That was shown by a Return for which he had moved last Session. There was a large surplus in 1853, but ever since 1854, the beginning of the Crimean war, there had been a recurrence of large deficits, with the exception of 1858–9, when his right hon. Friend the Member for Bucks was in office, and 1859–60, the year after he had quitted office. In those eight years the deficit was £36,144,000, and, deducting the surplus of these two years, £2,400,000, the result was a net deficiency, during eight years, of £33,744,000. No doubt, that was mainly due to the war with Russia. No one would expect that during a great war the revenue would be equal to the expenditure. As, too, the war with Russia was the cause of the deficiency, so also the great increase in the expenditure of the country might be traced to the same cause. The excitement that then prevailed in Europe led the various Governments to consider the best means of attack and defence, and different nations then began to run a race against each other, which had brought them to their present financial position. It was idle to attribute their present exceptional position to such causes as the little war in China, or the possibility of a 689 difficulty with America. A year or two ago it was France with which they were entering upon a race of armaments; now it was America. There seemed a probability that the United States, which used to be a great pacific Power, were on the eve of becoming a great military Power, and that upon an element where it would be necessary to take the most costly measures to preserve British ascendency. He asked the House to consider what probability there was of that exceptional state of things coming to an end for some time? It was, therefore, their duty to consider the resources of this country, and not to throw them away until they saw the way of meeting the inevitable expenditure.
He would next call the attention of the House to the increase of the debt. Since 1854 there had been an addition of £31,500,000 to the capital of the debt, and an increase in the annual charge, making allowance for the falling-in of the Long Annuities, of upwards of £1,000,000. The country used to bear that annual charge with some cheerfulness, because there was a prospect of one portion of it coming to an end. That payment had now ceased, and there was therefore no longer that relief to look forward to. The real measure of the debt was the amount of its annual charge, and that had not decreased during the last three years, if allowance were made for the Long Annuities. There was no real diminution of the debt during the last three years, nor had it varied much during the last few years. When it was remembered that during the last eight years an addition of £30,000,000 had been made to the debt, the House would not be doing its duty unless it made ample provision for the expenditure of the year, whether it were an exceptional year or not. Whether that was to be done by a reduction of expenditure or an increase of income was not the point under discussion; but he did press upon the House the necessity of making exertions to equalize the income with the expenditure, and to secure a large surplus, every year, that might be reckoned upon. The year 1860 was called an exceptional year, because of the Commercial Treaty with France. In that year the Chancellor of the Exchequer had an addition of £2,000,000 to his resources through the cessation of the Long Annuities. The right hon. Gentleman did not know what to do with that £2,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman, after giving full effect, 690 and more than full effect, to the stipulations of treaty, with a million of surplus, and what did do with it? He was not obliged by the treaty with France to repeal the paper duty, yet he proposed to give up—and would have done it but for the interposition of the House of Lords—more than a million for this purpose, although the country was on the eve of a China war, and although he was warned the year would be one of exceptional expenditure. Then in the month of July the right hon. Gentleman, after having thrown away his resources as far as he could, came forward with a Vote of Credit for £3,800,000. In the same year arose the question of the fortifications. The Government were pressed to tell the House what they proposed to do. It was known that the Defence Commission had reported, and that a large sum would be wanted. Yet all that the House was told was, "Pass our measures, and then you will see what we propose to do." That was not fair; the House could not possibly do its duty, or make a proper provision for the expenditure with such demands. However desirable it might be to repeal different duties, and however true it might be that at the end of five or ten years they would be the richer for having done so, yet nothing could excuse the Government for making a provision for the year.
There was another point he had adverted to, immediately after the budget statement, on which he would offer a few remarks; it was in reference to a portion of the calculations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had asked how the right hon. Gentleman expected a larger revenue from the; Excise that year than in the last. The paper duty had been taken off; and that they were told last year would cause a further loss of £500,000on the Excise in the present year. Hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House had been told more than once, and again that night, that they had proposed to give up a larger amount on the tea duties than the Chancellor of the Exchequer had sacrificed by the paper duty. He denied the fact: but in the way the argument had been used it was used unfairly. In the first instance many of them doubted whether there was a surplus at all. But on being assured there was a surplus, and that some taxation might be reduced, they preferred a reduction of the duty on tea to the abolition of the duty on paper, not only because they thought there were stronger 691 claims in the one case than in the other, but because they thought the reduction of the tea duty would cause a smaller loss to the revenue than the abolition of the paper duty. They might have been wrong; they had not access to the official calculations and information possessed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was perfectly legitimate for him to say. You think you are only sacrificing £500,000 by your proposal, but you are really sacrificing £900,000, Had it been fairly put in that way, they might have been prepared to modify the proposal so as to bring down the reduction to what the revenue could afford. But it was not fair to taunt them with having proposed to throw away a greater amount of revenue than had been lost on the paper duty, when their proposal was in the directly opposite sense. And he still thought, that if they had passed the Resolution of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall), they would not have thrown away so large an amount as the Government had sacrificed by abolishing the duty on paper. It might have been very wrong in them to make a miscalculation in the financial measure they proposed; but if so, a mistake on the part of the Government was much more inexcusable. With all the advantage of official information, and a careful survey of the ground for two years, it now appeared that the Government had made miscalculations as to the loss which would be occasioned by the repeal of the paper duty that deprived it of any right to taunt them with having committed an error as to the loss of revenue by the remission of the tea duty. It was a serious thing for an independent Member to venture to criticise the estimates of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They were told, and justly, that the estimates were not prepared by the Chancellor of the Exchequer alone, but with the assistance of the permanent heads of the revenue departments on the best information they had at command. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made mistakes in the calculation of revenue from several sources, and especially from the Excise. In 1860 the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated that the Excise would produue£21,361,000; in reality, it produced only £19,439,000. In the following year it was estimated that it would produce £18,780,000, whereas it produced £18,330,000, or £450,000 less; and he therefore thought, that considering the wide difference between his former es- 692 timates and their result, they were fairly at liberty to criticise the right hon. Gentleman's estimates, and especially those of the Excise. The right hon. Gentleman estimated that the revenue from the Excise would be as large this year as the last. The right hon. Gentleman calculated the loss on the paper duty at £300,000, and estimated that he would make up that amount in the malt duty. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in that. And if he did realize the full gain expected on malt, that was not the principal article on which revenue was gained from the Excise. What were the prospects of the revenue from spirits? There had been a serious diminution in the consumption of spirits in the past year—not less than 2,000,000 gallons. That was attributed to a decrease in the consuming power of the population. But did they see any symptoms of a revival of the consuming power? It used to be said that in a period of distress the revenue from spirits increased, because the first thing Englishmen did under depression was to take to drink. But now, from a fortunate change in the disposition of the people, that was happily not the case. In a period of distress, the first pressure did not fall on tea, or other necessaries of life; it appeared first in the reduced revenue from spirits and tobacco. That was a most gratifying circumstance, as indicating the improved moral character of the people; but, regarded merely as a question of finance, it affected the prospects of the revenue very seriously. The deficiency in the consumption of spirits in 1861 was 2,000,000 gallons, as compared with 1860. The duty on spirits was 10s. a gallon; the decrease, therefore, meant a deficiency in the revenue of £1,000,000. These were the sort of calculations they must look at. They were operating on a very small surplus indeed; and in the sanguine estimates of the Chancellor of the Exchequer he had no confidence whatever. They had heard a great deal of the increase in the Military and Naval Estimates. That increase had been 37 per cent since 1853. But the Miscellaneous Estimates had increased in the same period from £4,800,000 to £7,890,000—an increase of 64 per cent. At the same time, the national defences were the first object to look at, and they could not take the responsibility of cutting down the necessary demands for them. But, if they could not keep down the Naval and Military Esti- 693 mates, why could not the hon. Gentlemen below the gangway attempt some reduction of the continually growing Miscellaneous Estimates? That was a point for consideration. He did not wish to raise questions or discussions which had no practical object whatever. He did not wish merely to lay the foundation of a party vote, or to make use of an opportunity like that for the purpose of gaining anything like a party triumph; but he thought the House must admit that the distrust which he and his friends had felt in the system of finance adopted during the last two years had been very much justified by the results. He should not go in detail into several of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's schemes, to which be did not object in the abstract. He should have approved almost everything that had been done by the right hon. Gentleman if it had been done at the right time. What he objected to was, that the right hon. Gentleman had attempted to accomplish in two years what ought to have been the work of, perhaps, ten. He could not bring himself to believe that they had not suffered anything in the revenue of the last year, and; would not suffer anything in the revenue of the present, by the repeal of the paper duty. He could not bring himself to believe that the exceptional years were at an end. On the other hand, he ventured to say that the resources to be derived from exceptional taxation were coming to an end. A few years ago they were told the tuxes on which they could fall back in cases of emergency were the income tax, the malt tax, the spirit tax, and the taxes on tea and sugar. It was evident that neither the malt tax nor the spirit tax was available any longer. They had pushed the spirit duties as far as they could go. The House had been told that the falling-off in the consumption of duty-paying spirits was not the result of illicit distillation; but they must remember that the spirit duties both in Scotland and Ireland were now four times as much as they had been some years ago; and they knew that when Chancellors of the Exchequer tried to increase those duties in former times, they were beaten by the smuggler. Well, then, as to the malt tax, they could not carry that much further. The tea and sugar duties also were maintained at a war level. He did not mean to say that in a great emergency they might not raise them still higher; but it was very doubtful whether they would get more by doing 694 so. There was then the income tax; but that, too, was at a war level. Sir Robert Peel put on a 7d. income tax; and if it stood at that figure, they might have considered that they were paying a peace income tax; but while they paid 9d. or 10d. in the pound, they must, he thought, feel that they were paying a war income tax. The hon. Member for Sunderland had charged the Conservatives with adopting a party proceeding in reference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's financial policy. He did not think they were open to that hon. Gentleman's accusation, that they showed no anxiety to suggest any practical remedy. He was anxious to say that they ought not to accept the excuses that were made to them, but ought to call on the Government to accept the responsibility which bonâ fide belonged to them—to discharge the duty for which they sat on the benches opposite and which the country expected them to perform—namely, that of providing a revenue to meet the national expenditure.
§ House in Committee of Ways and Means.
§ MR. MASSEY in the Chair.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had to propose the following Resolutions:—2. That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorized to raise any sum of money not exceeding £1,000,000 sterling, by the issue of Exchequer Bonds.3. That the Principal of all Exchequer Bonds which may be so issued shall be paid off at par, at the expiration of any period not exceeding six years from the date of such Bonds.4. That the Interest of such Exchequer Bonds shall be payable half-yearly, and shall be charged upon and issued out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, or the growing produce thereof.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he wished to ask whither the Chancellor of the Exchequer had any information to communicate to the Committee with respect to the working of the new Exchequer Bonds—as to whether any had been paid in for taxes.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that as far as regarded the working of the new system, be did not think a single bill had been paid into the revenue. Such payment could only happen when those bills were not at a premium, and they had been steadily at a premium.
§ Resolutions agreed to.695
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would then propose the following Resolution:—5. That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the several Rates and Duties granted to Her Majesty by the Act of the last Session of Parliament, chap. 20, for one year, commencing on the 6th day of April, 1861, for and in respect of all Property, Profits, and Gains mentioned or described as chargeable in the Act passed in the 16th and 17th years of Her Majesty's reign, chap. 34, for granting to Her Majesty Duties on Profits arising from Property, Professions, Trade's, and Offices, shall be granted and continued, and shall be charged, raised, levied, collected, and paid unto and for the use of Her Majesty, Her heirs and successors, from and after the 5th day of April, 1862, for the term of one year thence next ensuing.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
said, he wished to ask a question with regard, to the collection of the income tax. The collectors had sent round a paper, dated the 20th of March, stating that the tax was due, and requiring that it should be paid immediately. He presumed that they would be liable to the, penalties for obtaining money under false pretences if they were not justified in the assertions made in their circular. The 20th of March was a strange date for the tax to become due on.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he did not know how it was that the quarter fell due on the 20th of March, but he had no doubt that the date stated in the collectors' paper was the correct one. He supposed that in strictness the tax was due on that day; but no instructions had been given by the Government for the collection of the quarter due on the 20th of March before the 1st of April. The proceedings of the collectors were not, however, taken by the direction of the Government, and the Government had no way of interfering with them, except when they were brought under their notice in a particular case.
Resolution agreed to.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer then moved—6. That towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty the Duties and Drawbacks of Customs now charged and allowed on the articles undermentioned shall continue to be levied, charged, and allowed on and after the 1st day of July, 1862, until the 1st day of July, 1863, on Importation into Great Britain and Ireland, or on Exportation there from to Foreign parts, or on removal to the Isle of Man for consumption therein, or on deposit thereof in any approved warehouse, upon such terms and subject to such regulations as the Commissioners of Customs may direct, for delivery there from as Ships' Stores only, or for the purpose of sweetening British Spirits in Bond, namely:—Tea; Sugar, as denominated in the 696 Tariff; Molasses; Almonds, paste of; Cherries' dried; Comfits, dry; Confectionery; Ginger, preserved; Marmalade; Plums, preserved in Sugar; Succades, including all Fruits and Vegetables preserved in Sugar, not otherwise enumerated.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he then rose to propose the following Resolution—7. That, towards raising the supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be charged and paid for the use of Her Majesty, Her heirs and successors, the following Duty of Excise:—For and upon every Occasional Licence to be granted to any person who shall be duly authorized to keep a common Inn, Alehouse, or Victualling House, and licensed to sell therein beer, wine, spirits, or tobacco, to sell the like articles for which he shall be so licensed at any such other place, and for and during such space or period of time, not exceeding three Says, as the Commissioners of Inland Revenue shall approve, and as shall be specified in such Occasional License, the Duty of 5s.The Licences referred to in the Resolution would be confined to persons already licensed under the present law. Persons licensed to sell in their houses we're also allowed to sell the articles for which they were licensed at "fairs or races;'' so that the principle of their selling at fairs or races was recognised, and he thought justly so, by the existing law; but there were other gatherings—such as reviews, archery meetings, &c.—at which under the new regulation leave would be given to licensed publicans to sell. Their being no power in licensed publicans to sell at those places at present, sales of liquors were made by all sorts of persons, licensed and unlicensed. By giving licensed publicans authority to sell at such places, they would bring1 the whole of the sales under the control of the police; for those publicans would take care, for their own sake, to keep other people off the ground. The existing law was not only difficult but impracticable, and the Board of Inland Revenue had been obliged to give up the attempt to enforce it. They had directed their officers to abstain from interference; but of course they had no power over the common informer, and therefore it appeared to them that the best course would be to organize, under proper restraints, a supply of liquors which did appear to be required in these assemblages of people and for that reason the present Resolution was proposed. But it had been suggested to him that these licences ought on no account to include power to sell liquors on Sundays. He believed that no such power was ever intended to be taken, but he would take care, in answer to the suggestion, to have 697 any risk of any such power being granted under the words of the Resolution, effectually corrected by the Bill.
§ MR. W. E. FOSTER
said, he did not object to the Resolution, and he quite agreed that any discussion had better take place upon the Bill. He would take that opportunity, however, of expressing his regret that they had a fresh tampering with the licensing system without an attempt to deal with the whole subject, with a view to avoid the anomalous condition of having four different licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would move the following Resolutions:—8. That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be charged and paid to and for the use of Her Majesty, Her heirs and successors:—For and in respect of every Pack of Playing Cards made fit for sale or use in the United Kingdom, the Stamp Duty of 3d.; and for and upon every Licence to be taken out annually by any person in the United Kingdom who shall sell Playing Cards:—If such person shall be a Maker of Playing Cards, £1; if he shall not be a Maker of such Cards, 5s.; the said Duties to be in lieu of the Duties now chargeable on Playing Cards, and on Licences to the Maker's thereof.9. That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, in lieu of the Duties of Customs now charged on the articles undermentioned, the following Duties of Customs shall be charged thereon on importation into Great Britain and Ireland, from and after the day when the Duties of Stamps now payable on Playing Cards shall have been reduced to a like or lower amount—viz., Cards, viz., Playing Cards, the dozen packs, 3s. 9d.The object of these Resolutions was to secure a real revenue on the article of playing cards, for at present the duty was not paid on one pack out of twenty, in consequence of its amount and the manner in which it was levied. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, objected to the payment of the licence of £1 for the maker of playing cards, and of 5s. for the vendor; but the Government could not undertake with any degree of security to work the selling of a stamped commodity except in the hands of a licensed vendur, and it was merely applying in this case a principle upon which they already acted with regard to postage stamps, draft and receipt stamps, and with regard generally to all stamped documents.
Resolutions agreed to.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer next moved—10. That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there shall be charged and payable 698 to Her Majesty, Her heirs, and successors, upon and in respect of any Bond, Debenture, or other Security for Money, by whatever name it shall be called, made in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, by or on behalf of any Foreign or Colonial Government, State, or Company (not being a Bill of Exchange or Promissory note, chargeable as such with Stamp Duty, not being an instrument already chargeable with the same Stamp Duty as a Bond, or for which a composition in lieu thereof is payable), which shall be issued, delivered, assigned, transferred, or negotiated within the United Kingdom, the same Stamp Duty as i3 chargeable on a Bond made in the United Kingdom for securing the payment of the like amount of money.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, the Resolution as it stood was not very clear, for its language would impose a stamp duty on every security issued by a foreign Government which might be brought into this country and sold by one person to another. It would be necessary, therefore, to alter it so as to confine it—which, he believed, was the right hon. Gentleman's real intention—to loans raised in this country, or to debentures which bore on the face of them that the interest was to be paid in this country. Then, if foreign Governments chose to come to the English market to raise money for their purposes, they were bound to submit to any conditions that the law of this country imposed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would suggest that really the only question which the Committee was called upon to deal with at that moment was the question whether in its general principle the Resolution was equitable; and upon that matter he did not think there was any difference of opinion. He thought the hon. Gentleman was quite right in paying strict attention to the exact scope of the Resolution, but he would recommend that he should postpone his remarks till he saw the precise terms of the Bill and the exact regulations for stamping when they were before the House.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again on Wednesday.