§ WAYS AND MEANS—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
Mr. Courtney, I have now to ask the Committee to pass from the region of higher politics in which we have been engaged during the last two or three months into the calmer sphere of the discussion of the national balance-sheet. But although the discussion may be conducted, I hope, in a calmer atmos- 1419 phere, it involves, as every Member of this House must be aware, questions reaching deep down into the foundations of the prosperity of the country, and consequently interesting to every member of the community. I have, in the first place, according to custom, to call the attention of the House to the Expenditure of the past year; but before I do so I should wish to impress one sot of broad figures upon the minds of Members of the Committee, and that is that in the past year both the Expenditure and the Revenue may be said, in round numbers, to have reached the figure of £90,000,000. That £90,000,000 admits of easy sub-division, both on the Expenditure side and the Revenue side. On the Expenditure side it divides itself into two great heads—namely, £30,000,000 for the charges on the Consolidated Fund, and £60,000,000 for the Supply Services. That is to say, that one-third represents the Consolidated Fund charges and two-thirds represent the Supply Services. Of the £90,000,000, on the receipt side,£75,000,000, in round numbers, are derived from taxes, and £15,000,000 from non-tax revenue—in other words, five-sixths of the revenue is derived from taxation, and one-sixth is derived from other sources, such as the Post Office, telegraphs, and miscellaneous sources of that kind.
I now come to the Expenditure of the last year. The Budget Estimate, as hon. Members will see by reference to the Papers which are in their hands, was £89,610,000. The Supplementary Estimates amounted to £1,259,000, giving a total estimated Expenditure of £90,869,000. The actual Exchequer issues were £89,997,000, just £3,000 less than £90,000,000. The result is that the Exchequer issues were £387,000 more than the original Estimate and £872,000 less than the total estimated Expenditure, including Supplementary Estimates. Now, it is interesting to consider how far this reduction of £872,000 on the total Estimates was due to real economies in the Services, and represents so much saved to the nation. In the first place, there is on the Consolidated Fund charges a saving, in round figures, of £100,000, which is due to the fact that the interest on Treasury Bills and Exchequer Bills was estimated at a higher figure than ultimately had to be paid. The estimate 1420 taken was 3 per cent for all Bills. As a matter of fact, the average rate of 3 months' Bills was about 2¼ per cent; and that of 6 months' Bills about 2½ per cent. There is an apparent saving on the Army of £263,000; but that does not represent real economy. It is due to what is sometimes considered by hon. Gentlemen rather a complication—namely, the difference between the Exchequer issues and the actual Expenditure of a particular year. I think I can illustrate the nature of this apparent reduction to the Committee by the following illustration. Suppose that a man had an agent whose travelling expenses he had agreed to pay up to the sum of £ 1,000 a-year maximum; but that, at the same time, he had agreed only to pay the actual expenditure. Suppose that the agent expended only £900, there would be £100 left. The £100 would not be at the disposal of the agent, nor would he be entitled to spend it in that year; but it would go against his next year's allowance. So it is with the Army. It is impossible to foresee the exact amount of money that may be lawfully spent within the year, especially in respect of our troops abroad. An approximate sum is, therefore, issued, and the amount by which the actual expenditure falls short of that sum is carried over to the next year, and constitutes, as in the present case, a balance "which will relieve the Exchequer issues of the following year. I have thought it best to make this explanation, as I believe the point is one which sometimes puzzles hon. Members. When they see an apparent saving of £260,000 in this particular Vote, they ought to know that it is really no saving in the sense that the Army has spent so much less money. The short issue in the year 1886–7 is mainly due to the fact that £260,000 had been issued under the Vote of Credit to the Army in the previous year, which was not spent, and which, therefore, came in relief of the Exchequer issues of the following year. The same applies, to a certain extent, to the saving of £347,000 shown on the Civil Service Estimates. But here, I am happy to say, the whole apparent reduction is not swallowed up by a matter of account. On the Civil Service Estimates there has been a real and substantial economy of about £200,000 by the Departments 1421 not having spent all the money which they were entitled to expend under the grants; and there is also in the Revenue Departments a real saving of about £100,000. If hon. Members will add together £100,000 saving on interest, £200,000 on the Civil Service Estimates, and £100,000 on the Revenue Departments, they will see that there is a real saving of about £400,000 on the past year. The other amounts which are short of the Estimate are due rather to matters of account. At all events, we arrive at this conclusion—that the total Expenditure contained in Exchequer issues was £872,000 less than the amount which was granted by Parliament.
Turning now to the Receipts, hon. Members will see that the Budget Estimate was £89,869,000, and the Exchequer Receipts were£90,773,000, showing a Revenue beyond what was anticipated of £904,000. It will be interesting, I presume, to the Committee to have some explanation with regard to the causes which have brought about that comparatively satisfactory result. It is due to an increase of £681,000 in the produce of taxes, and an increase of £223,000 in the produce of non-tax revenue. Looking at the figures under the several heads, hon. Members will see that there is an increase in the Customs of £455,000, and a decrease in the Excise of £444,000. These are, together with an increase of £465,000 in stamps, the most remarkable points about the Revenue of 1886–7.
I may now touch upon one or two details of importance. The revenue from alcoholic drinks is a matter which has always had great interest for the hon. Members of this House. In 1885–6 the actual revenue derived from alcoholic drinks was £26,898,000, and in the last financial year it was £26,690,000, a falling off of £208,000. Comparing the receipts under this head in the past year with the Estimate, I find that where we have gained is on foreign spirits, in which there has been an increase of £406,000, while in home-made spirits there has been a decrease of £548,000 below the Estimate. If you take the two together the Budget Estimate was remarkably accurate; but certain circumstances have disturbed what may be called the internal relation between different forms of alcoholic drink. While on this subject of 1422 spirits I wish to say that the most able officers of the Customs and the Inland Revenue are never able to say for a certainty whether the run will be on foreign spirits or on British spirits, nor are they able easily to forecast whether brandy, rum, Geneva, or any other kind of spirit will be a favourite in any particular year. I believe it depends to a considerable degree upon the climate, and I am told that the great increase in rum of £208,000 over the Estimate is due to the cold weather which we have had. Another explanation which is given is, that there has been a decline in the price of rum. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) framed his Estimates rum was dear; therefore it was thought recourse would rather be had to English spirits; but, in fact, rum has been cheap, and the consequence has been that the increase has been upon foreign spirits. Then, again, with regard to wine. The revenue from wine has been constantly declining, partly in consequence, as the Committee will be aware, of the change in the duty; but above that there has been a constant tendency to decrease in the consumption of wine. From 1877 to 1886 the revenue from wine has fallen off 30 per cent. This is a subject to which, with the permission of the Committee, I shall advert to in a later portion of my Statement.
Coming to articles of consumption other than alcoholic liquors, there is no increase in the revenue from coffee. It is a somewhat extraordinary fact, but the revenue from coffee never increases; the consumption of coffee and the revenue from coffee are less now than they were 20 years ago. On the other hand, the consumption of cocoa and the revenue from it have doubled within the last 15 years. The consumption of tea has doubled between the years 1857 and 1887. In 1857 the consumption was 2.45 lbs., and in 1884 it is 4.87 lbs. per head of the population. Looking at the position of our Indian Empire, we may congratulate ourselves upon the following facts with regard to the consumption of tea:—Whereas 10 years ago we received 156,000,000 lbs. from China, and 28,000,000 lbs. from India, or 184,000,000 lbs. altogether, in 1886 we received 145,000,000 lbs. from China, and 81,000,000 lbs. from India, or 226,000,000 1423 lbs. altogether, the increase from India having thus been 53,000,000 lbs., whereas there was a decrease of 11,000,000 lbs. from China. It would be extremely satisfactory to the Chancellor of the Exchequer if great general advantages were always accompanied by fiscal advantages; but I am sorry to say that that is frequently not the case. In the same way that we rejoice over the progress of the temperance movement in spite of the loss to the revenue which it entails, so our satisfaction at the substitution of the tea of India, a part of our Empire, for that of China, a foreign country, is somewhat marred by the fact that it is accompanied by a loss of revenue. This is due to the curious circumstance that the teas of India are stronger than the teas of China, and, therefore, go further, so that a smaller quantity of tea is required to mate the same number of cups. The consequence is that the consumption of tea, though progressing, does not show so great a rate of progress as it used to do.
I have now spoken of the revenue from alcoholic liquors and from other articles of consumption; the only remaining notable increase in revenue is due to the item of stamps, under which head we have exceeded the estimate by upwards of £450,000. This increase is about equally divided between the Death Duties and the Stamp Duties proper. The increase in the Death Duties is due to the falling in of some heavy legacies; but there is a further increase which is due not to expanding revenue, but to the collection of arrears. By the adoption of a bettor system of collection, Income Tax, and Death, and other Duties are collected much more closely than they used to be, and so you find that what you would at first believe to be an increase of revenue due to increasing wealth and prosperity represents little more than the increase of energy on the part of the officers of Somerset House. In the revenue from stamps proper there is, however, a more satisfactory cause for the increase—namely, that the receipts have been sensibly affected by an improvement in business. There have been more transactions which have required stamps, and particularly an exceptional number of foreign bonds to bearer which have been presented to be stamped.
These are, I think, the main incidents in the Revenue of last year with which 1424 I need trouble the Committee. I now come to the final result of the past year. It will be remembered that the surplus was estimated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby at £259,000 at the beginning of last year, and the Supplementary Estimates were £1,259,000. If you deduct that from the estimated surplus you have a deficiency of £1,000,000 on the Expenditure; but there were savings to the extent of £872,000, which reduced the deficiency to £128,000. The excess of the actual yield of revenue over the Estimate I have stated at £904,000, which converts the deficiency into a final surplus for the past year of £776,000, as against the anticipation of my right hon. Friend of £259,000. I think the Committee will admit that, on the whole, looking to the events of the year, that is a satisfactory result. This result is due in the very smallest measure to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is due, in the first instance, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer who made the accurate provisions which have been so satisfactorily justified; and, in the second place, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—my noble Friend the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill)—who was responsible for the greater part of the financial year, and who has rendered such successful service to the cause of economy.
Now, I will state—and it is always a matter of interest to the Committee—how this affects our balances. We began the year with a balance of £5,626,000. We took out of balances, principally for advances to Local Authorities for local loans, £452,000, leaving a balance of £5,174,000; and, adding to that the surplus of £776,000, we have a balance—a very creditable balance I hope the Committee will think—at the end of the year of £5,950,000, which is an increase of £324,000 over the year before. We have paid off Debt during the year to the amount of £6,046,000; and if I add the amount by which the balances are increased, and which is equivalent to a diminution of Debt, the real reduction of Debt is £6,370,000.
But I hope the Committee will not run away with the idea that because in the last year there has been this satisfactory balance of £776,000, therefore we can look at the financial situation of the country with absolute complacency. I should wish, with the indulgence of the 1425 Committee, to examine in some detail the position in which we stand as regards our resources and the calls made upon them. And, first of all, let me make some general observations on the Expenditure and Revenue for a certain period of years. With regard to the Army and Navy there has been considerable discussion, and I do not wish to dwell at length upon this point; but I would simply call the attention of the Committee to the fact that during the last two years, and during the present financial year which we have now commenced, we have had to bear a heavy extra charge. Let us hope it may be an extra charge and not a permanent charge. This extra charge is due to that which is commonly known as the naval scare of November, 1884, and if I call it a naval scare I do so without intending to imply either that it was justified or that it was not justified. I simply refer to it as a historical event. In that year the House agreed to an extra expenditure for the Navy of £3,100,000 on ships, and £1,600,000 on armaments. But I believe it is not infrequently the case that such Estimates expand during the course of their being worked out. In this case the Estimate for ships expanded to £3,600,000; and when the authorities of the time had to deal with the armaments, it was found that the Estimate had not included the necessary amount for new ammunition, and that involved a further sum of £500,000. We arrive, therefore, at this result—that, whereas the original Estimate was £4,700,000, the total extra expenditure is £5,700,000 in round numbers. The Admiralty have carried out the programme with considerable vigour and rapidity; and while it was the intention of Lord Northbrook that this additional sum should be divided between five years, the increased sum of £5,700,000 has been spread over and will be discharged in little more than three years. The Committee will see that this involves a heavy sacrifice on the part of the taxpayers during the last two years and this year. The increase due to that historical event on Navy Votes alone has been more than £1,000,000 a-year during the past two financial years, and involves £900,000 in the present financial year. Let hon. Members, therefore, keep in mind, when they are looking at the Estimates for 1426 the Navy, that those Estimates have been increased by that which has been a temporary, and, I hope, an exceptional outlay. The same will hold good for the armament of the Navy, which comes within the Army Estimates. The Army Estimates this year include no less a sum than £1,700,000 for naval armaments. But of this extra shipbuilding programme, there fortunately remains only £200,000 for completion in the next financial year. So that we may look forward, I trust, to the fact that at the end of this financial year we shall have arrived at a great diminution of the necessary charge which has been made upon the taxpayers owing to these exceptional circumstances; and I am glad to be able to state that the arrangements which are being made about our fast merchant steamships, adapting them at a very small cost to the State for naval purposes, and the arrangements which are also in progress with the Colonies, afford good reason to hope that the time is not far distant when the Naval Estimates will not require to be swollen by exceptional items such as those which have fallen so heavily upon the taxpayers during the past two years.
And now, Mr. Courtney, I pass away from the expenditure on the Army and Navy—in regard to which I hope and believe that it will be possible to make considerable reductions in the future—I pass from that point to the Civil Service Estimates, to which I should wish to be allowed to call the particular attention of Parliament, because here the intervention of Parliament is involved quite as much, and, I believe, more than the action of successive Governments. This year, notwithstanding the constant automatic increase in these Estimates, for education and other services, over which the Departments have no control at all, the amount asked for—namely, £17,931,000, is only £104,000 in excess of that expended in the year 1886–7. And here I wish to say that to a large extent the smallness of this increase in the prospective Estimates of this year is due to my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson), who has been through these Estimates with the greatest care, and who has subjected them to as rigid an examination as they have ever been subjected to before. Now, let us look back to the first year of the new system, 1427 established under the Exchequer and Audit Act. In the year 1868–9—that is to say, not 20 years ago—the Estimates for the Civil Service were £9,173,000. Now they are £17,931,000, or an increase of £8,758,000. You must deduct some items owing to changes of account; but there is a genuine increase remaining of £8,079,000, or 88 per cent. The first impression of the Committee may be—what extravagance has been committed by successive Governments in this respect; but I would call their most particular attention to the origin of that increase, and to the parties who are really responsible for it. It is not due to the fact that the business of the State has been conducted in a more costly manner, but that new functions are constantly being forced upon the State, and that new services are being demanded of it. The voice of Parliament, acting under the pressure of public opinion, has been constantly imposing new duties upon the State, and compelling it to bear, in whole or in part, the burden of work that has hitherto fallen on local authorities or private individuals, or that to a certain extent has not been performed at all. It is for Parliament in the future to decide to what extent it will continue that policy, but it is my duty, as the present guardian of the public purse, to call attention to the result of its legislation, so far as expenditure is concerned, and to show that that legislation—in many respects beneficent legislation as it may justly be called—has added 80 per cent in less than 20 years to the cost of the Civil Service.
It is a remarkable fact that out of the increase of £8,079,000 no less a sum than £7,505,000 is due to the direct action of Parliament, and only £474,000 is an administrative increase. If we deduct from the latter sum an increase of £629,000 in the cost of Irish Police, there is an absolute saving during the period of more than £150,000 on what may be called the cost proper of the Public Departments. That the cost of administration is not higher than it was formerly is proved by this fact—that in 21 Departments there has been a total increase of £172,000, while in 18 other Departments there has been a decrease of £200,000, the net decrease being £28,000. Therefore, the growth of these Estimates is not due to the 1428 administrative Services, and the saddle should be put upon the right horse. It is of no use denouncing the costly system of Government from year to year, and in Department after Department, when fresh duties are constantly being thrust upon the State, frequently in opposition to the views of the existing Government of the day. The question is one of such importance that I will not apologize to the Committee for the details into which I am about to enter. Of the increase I have mentioned there was due to new services imposed upon the Government by Parliament £5,057,000, and to the automatic increase in services previously imposed £2,548,000. Classified according to its nature, £4,153,000 of the increase was for Educational Services, and I would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) to that fact. This includes not only education, but the surroundings of education, such as the Science and Art Department at Kensington. Then there has gone in relief of local taxation £2,548,000, and for Miscellaneous Services, consisting chiefly of new forms of State control, £612,000. Education includes primary education in Great Britain, Irish industrial schools, reformatories, Science and Art, Welsh Colleges, & c. Relief of local taxation includes police, pauper lunatics, roads, prisons, & c. Miscellaneous Services include mines and factory inspection, fishery inspection, Irish Land Commission, Crofters Commission, Wrecks Commission, registrars of friendly societies, registrars in bankruptcy, surveys of the United Kingdom, and a number of other items. I am not saying that every one of those Services is not a valuable service, but I am only reminding you that they are now performed by the State, while previously they were performed in a large measure by local bodies or private individuals, or were not performed at all, and that it is due to the action of Parliament that the State has now undertaken them. And even at the present moment, when our finances are not in that entirely satisfactory position which some people believe, there is not a single object in which hon. Members take an interest as to which they are not urging on the Chancellor of the Exchequer their claims for his support. Persons interested in Art want 1429 grants to be made to the National Gallery, or money to be given for the purchase of pictures or other objects which may be for sale in the market. One hon. Gentleman is pressing me to purchase a valuable collection of coins. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Mundella) is going to press me heavily for technical schools and University Colleges, and I am also pressed for Colonial defence and other matters. I hope I have succeeded in placing before the Committee the growing nature of the Civil Service expenditure quite apart from any questions about the Army and Navy, which are the Departments which generally occupy the attention of the House.
I think I have shown the Committee that the Expenditure of the country is—I may say at least—very elastic, that its growth is certainly large and automatic, and that, besides the automatic growth, there is an artificial growth fostered by the public generally. I wish I could turn from the Expenditure side, which I have characterized in these terms, to the Revenue side, and say that there, too, we have got the necessary elasticity which would enable us from year to year to meet easily the extra pressure and to make head against these increasing charges. But that, unhappily, is not so. On the side of Revenue I would wish to call the most serious attention of the Committee to some important facts. I have made a calculation with respect to the progress of the produce of the taxes under the main heads of Customs, Excise, Stamps, and House Duty. I will deal with Income Tax separately. That fluctuates to such an extent, according to the number of pennies imposed, that it is not a fit subject to be included in my present comparison. I have started with the produce of these taxes in 1859–60 and bring the calculation down to the past year, taking periods of five years up to 1884–5, and then taking 1885–6 and 1886–7 separately. I am going to state what the same taxes have yielded at different times in order to show whether there is that elasticity in the Revenue which we might have hoped for and to which we used to be accustomed. To make the comparison correct, the net taxes imposed in each period have been added, and the net taxes reduced hare been deducted. In the first period of five years the produce of these taxes increased 10.8 per cent; in the next 1430 period of five years 9.9 per cent. Then we come to the flourishing period between 1870 and 1875, when the increase in the produce of the same taxes was 24.2 per cent. During the next period, from 1875 to 1880, there was no increase at all, but a decrease of 2.9; but in the next quinquennial period, from 1880 to 1885, there was an increase of 5.8 per cent. In 1885–6 there was a decrease of 3.7 per cent; while in the past year there was an increase of 0.8,, or less than 1 per cent.
I do not know whether the Committee grasp at once the full significance of those figures. They show that in the earlier quinquennial periods the produce of the taxes was developing very much faster than the growth of the population, whereas during the latter periods the produce of the taxes was scarcely increasing at all. The calculation I have made does not take into account the increase of the population. If we look to the best of those periods, the period from 1870 to 1875, the increase was, as I have said, 24 per cent, while the population increased 5 per cent. Therefore, the rate of increase in the produce of the taxes was nearly five times as great as that of the population. But in the last year the increase was not quite in proportion to the increase in the population, and in the year before there was a large decrease as compared with the increase of population.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Well, alcohol will account for a good deal of it. That is; a point to which I was about to call attention. But while we have lost a great deal on alcohol we have not gained sufficiently upon other articles to make up for the loss, partly because the other articles subject to taxation are now so few, and partly from other causes, I am not looking at it now from the point of view of the consuming power of the country, but simply from the fiscal point of view. I trust that the Committee follows me. Now, the amount of duty on alcoholic liquors was, in 1876, over £31,000,000; in 1886 it was under £27,000,000, a fall of more than £4,000,000, due in great part—I trust by far the greatest part—to the increase of temperance. Now, in former times, when there were a large number of articles 1431 subject to duty, it was generally expected that when there was a falling-off in one branch of Revenue the loss would be recouped under other heads. But now the articles on which duty is levied are so few that, when you lose this great revenue on alcoholic drinks, you have nothing to fall back upon but the Tea Duty, the Tobacco Duty, and the small duties upon coffee and dried fruits. Let me ask the Committee to consider the props upon which our taxation rests. The basis of our taxation is extremely narrow, and it is incumbent upon us, therefore, to examine both the strength of those great props on which the Revenue rests, and also the forces on the side of Expenditure which may be brought against those props. It is not any diminution of the power of consumption on the part of the people, but it is the diminution of the number of taxed articles, which brings about these striking results to which I have alluded. While the revenue from alcohol has fallen off by more than £4,000,000, the revenue from tea, tobacco, coffee, and dried fruits has only produced an increase of little more than £2,000,000. In 1876 alcoholic liquors brought in £31,000,000, and all other consumable articles £12,000,000; while in 1886 liquors brought in £27,000,000, and everything else £14,000,000, making a total of only £41,000,000, as compared with £43,000,000 in 1876. 'That is, after 10 years a diminution of £2,000,000, and that with an increase of 10 per cent in the population. Had the population continued to consume dutiable articles at the same rate as it did 10 years ago, the Revenue at this moment ought to be £48,000,000, whereas it is only £41,000,000. That shows the weakness of our position if we intend to rely in the main—I will not examine at this moment whether we ought so to rely—upon taxes on articles of consumption.
I do not wish, in the slightest degree, to rest an argument upon the cost of the breakfast table as it is now compared with what it was 10 or 20 years ago. But it is an interesting fact, which I may mention by way of digression, that the fall in the prices of tea and sugar has been greater than would have been the effect of the total repeal of the duties upon those articles in 1866, and that, at the present time, a cheaper breakfast can be secured with a sixpenny duty on 1432 tea than could have been obtained in 1866 had the duties upon tea and sugar been entirely repealed. The fall in the prices of tea and sugar has been so great that, whereas in 1866 a pound of tea and a pound of sugar—I am taking the average wholesale prices—cost 2s. 6d., including the duties, and would have cost 1s. 10½d. without the duties, and whereas in 1876 they cost 2s. l¾d., including the duty on tea, and would have cost ls. 7¾d. without that duty, in 1886 their cost is only 1s. 7½d., or 3d. less than they would have cost in 1866 with all the duties taken off.
I have lingered over these matters in order to prove that from a fiscal point of view the revenue from consumable articles is not in what one would call a satisfactory or an elastic condition. But I do not attribute that fact to the diminished consuming power of the people, but rather to a change in the habits of the working classes. But the fact remains that we have, as compared with 10 years ago, a declining Revenue, and one which, on the present basis, must continue to decline as far as consumable articles are concerned. I must now ask the Committee to turn from these duties which affect the mass of the population to those which affect the well-to-do classes. Let me see whether, in this higher region of prosperity, we can make up for the want of elasticity we find to prevail in the region below. Passenger Duty has decreased from £800,000 to £300,000. But there have been large exemptions in respect of that duty—the exemption of third-class passengers above all—which account for the falling-off in the amount of its produce. The revenue from licences remains nearly stationary, being about £3,500,000; but there is one particular portion of it to which I would direct attention—namely, the licences on the luxuries of the rich—which during the last 10 years have shown a decided and continuous decline. On male servants the amount of licence duty has decreased between 1877 and 1886 from about £167,000 to £137,000. On armorial bearings there has been a diminution from £82,000 to £77,000, and on carriage licences there has been a decrease from £555,000 to £545,000. That is precisely what we should expect would occur during a period of commercial and agricultural depres- 1433 sion such as has existed during the last few years, and which has affected the well-to-do classes, and to a certain extent curtailed their luxuries. I will now turn to a more interesting item of the Revenue—I mean the Income Tax. The produce of the Income Tax per penny has increased very slowly during this period, it having fluctuated between £1,850,000 and £2,000,000. But while the total produce per penny has undergone little change, there has been a great change in the produce of the different kinds of property upon which Income Tax is levied. The assessment of lands under Schedule A was £69,000,000 in 1876–7, and £63,000,000 in 1885–6. Houses, on the other hand, which are also assessed under Schedule A, rose in the same period from £103,000,000 to £131,000,000. Under Schedule B, which includes only farming profits, there has been a great falling off. The produce of Schedule B per penny was £74,000 in 1875–6, and only £52,000 in 1885–6. Last year it fell to £47,000 per penny, a fall of 36 per cent in 11 years. That is a fact to which I would call particular attention. What I wish to press upon the Committee is to avoid the mistake of looking at the total of the Income Tax assessments without examining the items. With regard to Schedule D, which is the great stand-by of the Revenue, and the Schedule upon which we used to expect the greatest increase, and by means of which former Chancellors of the Exchequer have been able to treat us to pleasant surprises—Schedule D, containing as it does the profits of trade and business—in 1869 the assessment was £161,000,000, while in 1876 it was £242,000,000, being a jump of £80,000,000 in seven years. But from 1876 to 1886 it only rose from £242,000,000 to £247,000,000, being an increase of only £5,000,000 in 10 years. I wish the Committee to grasp the full significance of these figures. While in the earlier period there was this gigantic increase in the Revenue of the country the turn came in 1876, and since then there has been only an aggregate increase of £5,000,000 in 10 years. I hope the Committee are following me in the line of argument I am pursuing with reference to the elasticity of the Revenue, as it will enable us to see how far we may count upon that elasticity in future.
1434 I now approach a point which I think will be of some considerable interest to the Committee—namely, the distribution of wealth as shown by the produce of Schedule D, because there we arrive at some extraordinary results. In order to test the matter I will take a particular and important district in the City of London, where the assessment under Schedule D is between £16,000,000 and £17,000,000. The gross assessment in respect of individual profits from trades and professions in that district declined from £7,050,000 in 1876 to £6,150,000 in 1886; but, meanwhile, the profits of Public Companies increased from £7,200,000 in 1876 to £10,700,000 in 1886. That, so far, is a circumstance very notable from a social and economic point of view. The creation of large Companies such as those of Guinness and Allsopp secures, at the moment, to the owners the accumulation of past years; but in future the profits of those large undertakings will be distributed over a much wider area, and a much greater part of the population will share in industrial, commercial, and banking undertakings. This is a change which I hail with considerable satisfaction. My inference as to the greater distribution of wealth is singularly borne out by the analysis of the individual profits to which I have just alluded. In the district referred to, the profits of persons whoso business income was less than £1,000 per annum increased from £1,540,000 to £1,663,000 between 1876 and 1886, being an increase of 7 per cent; while those of persons having a business income of between £1,000 and £5,000 fell from £1,580,000 to £1,363,000, being a fall of about 14 per cent; and business incomes over £5,000 fell from £3,925,000 to £3,120,000, or a fall of 21 per cent. So that there is this remarkable fact—that below £1,000 the incomes have increased 7 per cent; between £1,000 and £5,000 they have decreased 14 per cent; and on incomes of £5,000 and upwards there is a decrease of 21 per cent. That brings us to the point at which I was driving before—namely, that there is more distribution of wealth, and it is perhaps what I may call the distributing classes whose incomes are below £1,000 who have suffered least from the general depression. The commercial depression 1435 has struck at the top; it has struck the great manufacturers; it has also affected the wage-earning class to a certain extent, though they have been largely indemnified by the fall of prices; at has struck at the agricultural classes and the farmers; but the middleman has not suffered to the same extent.
Now, I shall soon be finished with this review of the sources of revenue; still, it is a matter of such importance to the community at large, that I ought not to apologize for lingering so long upon it. To recapitulate, the Committee will remember the position of the consumable articles; they will remember the position of the luxuries of the rich, and what I have said with regard to the slow growth of the Income Tax; and now there only remains the great item of revenue from stamps. And here one would have expected that the progress of business would result in considerable progress in the Stamp Duties. But that is not the case. More business is clearly done, as the Clearing House Returns show; but I am sorry to say that there has been more and more cleverness in evading the Stamp Duties on transfers; and though there is some increase in this Department, I consider the whole region of the Stamp Duties not to be in a satisfactory position. Stamps fall under two great heads—Death Duties, and the duties on deeds, transfers, and conveyances. With regard to the Death Duties, there has been an increase, and a decided increase; though that has been due, as my right hon. Friend opposite is aware, in great part to legislation. But with regard to other stamps there is little change; and there is one curious reason for this that I may mention. All bills, as hon. Members are aware, are taxed ad valorem with a rather high tax; but the telegraph has introduced a system of making telegraphic transfers, and now when a remittance has got to be made of £100,000 from New York to London, instead of sending it in bills, which would have to pay a handsome contribution to the Exchequer, men simply send a telegram, saying—"Pay to So-and-so, on such a day, £100,000," and the operation escapes altogether. The result has been a considerable loss; and the ingenuity of Chancellors of the Exchequer ought to be directed, whenever they can find time, to a revision of the whole theory of the Stamp Duties, 1436 in order to see how far that valuable resource of the revenue may be made more available. So here, again, I feel obliged to repeat what I have said before, that the Revenue has not been an elastic one, and in no direction of all the sources of revenue which I have examined have I seen that hopeful progress which we might have wished for and expected.
I hope and believe, at the present time, that there is a change—I will not call it considerable—for the better in the aspect of business generally. Whether it extends to agriculture is a matter upon which many hon. Members of this House are much better able to form an opinion than I am. I believe they are not sanguine as to that; but there is an impression that there will be an increase in the commercial prosperity of the country. If I might use an agricultural simile in regard to it, I should say that we may consider that the soil is in a much better condition than it has been in the commercial and industrial world, and more likely to yield a good harvest. There is a better spirit abroad, a spirit of more hopefulness, more confidence, and what business is being done is of a sounder kind than what we have sometimes known. But I do not know to what extent these better auguries may be realized in the present financial year, and it has always been laid down by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) that it takes some time before an increase in the general prosperity of the country really tells in the way of an increase of the Revenue.
Now, having completed my story with regard to the general aspect of the Revenue and the Expenditure in its broadest features, without reference to any particular year, I turn to that which may be of more immediate interest to the Committee—namely, to the Estimates of the coming year. The Committee will bear in mind that, in framing these Estimates, I have had in my mind many of those general considerations which I have thought it right to submit to the House. If hon. Members will turn to page 3 of the printed Statement, they will find the figures I am about to give. Customs, I estimate at £20,200,000, or £45,000 more than the past year; Excise, £25,292,000; Stamps, £11,658,000; Laud Tax, £1.065,000; House Duty, 1437 £1,920,000; Property and Income Tax, £15,900,000, the same as the Exchequer receipts of last year—giving a total of Taxes of £76,035,000, or £80,000 less than last year. The Post Office I estimate at £8,600,000; Telegraphs, £1,950,000; Crown Lands, £370,000; Interest on Advances, £1,200,000; Miscellaneous, £3,000,000; making a total produce of Non-Tax Revenue of £15,120,000—the grand total Revenue thus being £91,155,000, as against £90,772,000 in the last year, or an increase of £383,000. The Committee will observe that there is an actual decrease in the produce of taxes in the coming year, which is, however, rather more than made up for by an increase in the Non-Tax Revenue Customs we put up £45,000 above the Exchequer Receipts of last year; I allow for an increase on tea and tobacco of £85,000 each, but for a decline in foreign spirits of £16,000, and in wine of £102,000. I must point to a curious circumstance connected with this—that in making these Estimates we have not failed to take into account the fact that the coming year is Leap Year, and, therefore, there will be one extra day on which to consume tea, tobacco, and spirits; and, considering the large number of millions over which our Revenue extends, that is not an unimportant point. It is one, however, which is duly remembered in the Estimates. Now, I do not think I need go into further detail with regard to Customs. Excise I put up £42,000, but it is chiefly owing to an increase of £130,000 in beer. I take the decrease on British spirits for the coming year at £52,000. The increase in the consumption of beer will be owing to one or two circumstances—in the first place, the extraordinarily cheap price of hops, a factor which always affects more or less the production of beer; and also to the fact that the recent prosecutions of publicans resulting in the discovery of a considerable adulteration of beer by the use of water have increased and are increasing the production of beer proper, to the exclusion of the water which is mixed with it. And thus, while the Excise officers have been rendering to the drinkers of beer a real service, giving them beer instead of beer and water, they have at the same time done a good stroke of business for the Revenue by substituting 1438 an article which is taxed—namely, beer, for an article which is not taxed—namely, water. It appears that there is an increase in the consumption of beer which has been noticed during the last three or four months, and also, taking into consideration the fact that there is an additional day next year, we consider ourselves justified in reckoning on this increase; but in spirits, again, we should do wrong unless we allowed for a decrease, and we put that, as I have said, at £52,000. The Income Tax we have placed at the old figure of £15,900,000—the figure which represents the Exchequer receipts of the past year; but my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby will be especially interested to know that the actual receipts of the Income Tax for 1886–7 have been £16,000,000, and a few thousands more. Now, it will be asked why, with prospects of improved business, with better hopes for the future, do you put the Income Tax as low as £15,900,000? Why do I put the tax so low? Because, under Schedule D, which contributes so great a share of this tax, and which is taken on an average of throe years, we get a worse three years on which to average the profits than in the last year. The year 1883 was a bettor year than 1886. In the past year the profits were estimated on 1883–4–5. In the present year the profits will be estimated on 1884–5–6; and, the profits of those years being less than the profits of the former three years, owing to the substitution of 1886 for l883, we are not justified in expecting a material or any increase in the Income Tax, especially if we look to the fact that Schedules D and C must make up for what may possibly be a progressive diminution under Schedule A as regards land, and under Schedule B for farming profits. Stamps I put down by £170,000, because that process of collecting arrears to which I have called attention has now almost come to its natural end; and also the effect of the exemption of lineals from the Legacy Duty will be felt in an increasing degree; and also the fall in the value of land will continue to affect Succession Duty. I have shown that the Revenue from taxes will be £80,000 less than in the year before; but the Revenue which is thus reduced in respect of taxes ia raised by the Non-Tax Revenue. In the Post 1439 Office, the Telegraphs, and Miscellaneous Receipts, there is an increase of £462,000, giving me a total increase of £382,000 over the Exchequer Receipts of last year.
I have now shown what I estimate my Revenue for the coming year to be. If hon. Members will take the Expenditure for the coming year, we shall arrive at some interesting figures. I estimate the permanent charge on the Debt at £28,036,917; the interest on the Sinking Fund at £641,000; interest on Suez Canal Exchequer Bonds £200,000; and other charges on the Consolidated Fund at £1,714,000. Those charges in the Exchequer issues of the previous year were £29,701,914, which shows an increase of charge in this year of £890,000, the total for 1887–8 being £30,591,917, and the total of last year £29,701,914. This is mainly due to the revival, by law, of the two Sinking Funds which were suspended by the right hon. Member for Derby. One of these funds amounted to upwards of £600,000, and the other to upwards of £200,000. They increase the charge on the total Consolidated Fund by that sum, and I have to allow for that in my Expenditure. To come to the Supply Services, the Army is £18,393,900, as compared with £18,429,272; for the Navy, the Estimate is £12,478,800, as against £13,265,401—a decrease, I am happy to say, of £788,000. The Civil Services are estimated at £17,931,508, as against £17,826,454; Customs and Inland Revenue, £2,715,727, as against £2,676,918; Post Office, £5,420,770, as against £5,436,893; Telegraph Service, £1,950,248,as against £1,935,000; and Packet Service, £699,341, as against £724,900—the total being £59,588,294, as against £60,294,838, a decrease of £707,000 on the total Supply Services. The total Expenditure last year was £89,996,752, and the estimated Expenditure for this year is £90,180,000, being an increase of £183,000.
I will now turn back to the Revenue. The total Revenue I estimated at £91,155,000, and the total Expenditure is £90,180,000, giving me a surplus of £975,000.
I apologize to the Committee for the length at which I have so far detained them; but I must ask thorn still further to be good enough to lend me 1440 their attention, as I have yet several matters of considerable importance to deal with. In fact, I am coming now to what may be considered the most important part of my Statement. It will be asked, having this surplus, what I intend to do with it? The first thing I intend to do with it, if I can persuade the Committee to do so, is to increase it by a change in the Stamp Duties, which I will explain to them, and which will give me an additional Revenue of £100,000. It is rather an intricate subject; but I think I shall be able to make it clear. The Transfer Duty on property gene-rally is 10s. per £100, and the Transfer Duty on mortgages and debts is about 6d. per £100. The ordinary stock and shares and preference shares of railways have been properly treated as property, and they have the privilege of paying that higher Transfer Duty of 10s. which attaches to property. It would appear as if the Legislature had intended that borrowing should be made easier than buying, because it has placed such a small duty on the borrowing process, and a heavy duty on the transfer of property. If that is so, nothing which is real and substantial property ought to escape; and if there are any marketable securities which, under the guise of loans, are really property, I maintain that they ought to be brought within the net, and pay the 10s. per £100 which is paid by other kinds of stock. Now, Debenture Stock is an item which has hitherto escaped, as I understand, on this principle—that debentures were regarded as instruments of credit and not as capital, and, perhaps, fairly so, to a certain extent. Debentures expire after a short period, and represent the borrowing operations of a Company. But when they are funded as Debenture Stock they are as much permanent property as any other part of a Company's capital, and Debenture Stock is as good, or better, than Ordinary or Preference Stock, or any other form of marketable security, and therefore I do not see that it should escape the ordinary rate of duty on the transfer of property. It had one claim for exemption in times past, which was that instead of being taxed on transfer, like ordinary Stock, Debenture Stock paid a small initial duty of 2s. 6d. at its birth, and that initial duty emancipated it from the heavy Transfer Duties after- 1441 wards. But debentures, by a later Act, were charged 2s. 6d. per cent on transfer, and that is the tax which I now propose to raise to 10s., thus placing Debenture Stock on the same footing as ordinary and Preference Stock.
A further change in the law, which I intend to ask the Committee to accept, is to apply to the Stamp Duties on transfers a principle which has been extremely valuable in most forms of taxation—namely, to tax at the fountain head, rather than lower down, and to see whether we can collect in one sum, rather than to collect in a number of small sums. I propose, therefore, that a tax of 1s. per £100 of their total capital should be annually paid by all Companies, whose ordinary Stock now pays 10s. a £100 on transfer, which tax should clear those Companies which elect to submit to it, and emancipate all their capital stock from paying any transfer duty at all. We take it from the Companies, instead of the transferors. The Companies will be able, if they chose, to recoup themselves, by charging those who come to them with transfers with the identical fee now charged, so to speak, by the Government. They could secure themselves against loss in that way; but, whether they will do so or not, I cannot tell until the experiment has been tried. But we do not propose to make this compulsory on all Companies, because the proprietors of some of the Companies may claim that the transfers in their Stocks are so few that they would suffer grievous loss by the change. But in those Companies where transfers are frequently made, it is believed that it would be extremely popular that these transfers should be entirely exempt from the Stamp Duty, and, on the whole, I believe the change will be so popular, that it will be accepted by the great bulk of the Companies. The general effect of this change upon the Revenue would be that if transfers were conducted on the same scale as at present, there would neither be much loss nor much gain on either side; but I should not be doing my duty as Chancellor of the Exchequer if I did not take care that, if there were a gain one way or the other, that gain should be on the side of the Revenue. The duty of Is. per £100 on the property of the Companies will rather exceed the total amount which 1442 is now derived from transfers, thus leaving a margin even if Companies, in whose Stocks there are few transfers, should not adopt it. But I have taken valuable opinions on the subject, and, though I may be mistaken, I believe that the vast majority of Companies will themselves welcome the change, and that shareholders will find it to their interest to urge the acceptance of this composition. [Mr. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside): Is it optional?] Yes. We should much prefer to make it compulsory; but there would possibly be much opposition, on the part of some of the Companies, and therefore we propose, in the first place, to make it optional; but we think the convenience will be found to be so great that all the Companies will soon see that it is to their advantage to adopt this arrangement. [Mr. ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney): Government Stock?] For Government Stock there is already a composition. Colonial and Government Stocks all stand at present under a separate arrangement, and the change does not apply to them, I should be glad, however, to make a further statement on this important matter at a later stage. Before leaving the subject of the Stamp Duties, I must say that I expect, from the changes proposed, an increase of over £100,000, which, however, will be reduced to £100,000 by a small remission of taxation in respect of policies of Marine Insurance, to which I shall presently refer.
I have now to ask the Committee to follow me into a subject which is considerably more intricate than any of those on which I have been engaged, and if I fail to make myself clear I trust the Committee will not think it is due to any confusion in my own mind, but to the inherent difficulty of the question. I wish the Committee to leave for a moment this balance of £975,000, increased to £1,075,000 by the £100,000 of which I have spoken, and to accompany me for a few minutes into a different branch of the subject; but I hope we may come back to our balance, and with something satisfactory in our hands. I wish now to deal with a subject which ought to engage the most earnest attention of the Committee, and that is the subject of local loans and the use of the public credit, which from 1443 day to day is now extending in larger and larger measure, not, I think, without some risks to the Revenue, and not without possibly impairing ultimately the credit of the State. That for which I am most anxious is that the public should know precisely how it stands; that it should know what liabilities it has incurred, and how it has raised money to meet them; what is the revenue derived from the Local Authorities to whom the State has lent money, and what is the charge resting on the Exchequer for the money which has thus been raised. There have been in the present century over £100,000,000 found by the State for local loans in the United Kingdom. I shall presently state to the Committee how much of that sum has been paid off and how much has been lost—because there have been material losses on sums which have been lent—and how much remains outstanding. But first let me point out how the money has been raised for this purpose. A portion of it has been paid out of Exchequer balances, and that has vanished in our general finance. There is no notice taken in any of our records of expenditure with reference to these advances which have been made direct from the Exchequer in past times. Another portion of the money has been raised by Exchequer Bonds and Bills, and Treasury Bills. There is a further complication caused by the fact that, again, some of these securities have been funded. Another portion still has been provided by the National Debt Commissioners out of their Savings Banks moneys with which the Public Works Loan Commissioners have been put in funds—an operation which does not enter into the national accounts at all, only the surplus of interest being paid into the Exchequer. The result of this most confused and unsatisfactory state of things is that nobody can see at a glance how much money we really have contributed towards local loans, or what the charge on the Revenue is on account of those local loans. Hon. Members who are familiar with the accounts know that there is an item of about £960,000 in the Miscellaneous Revenue derived from interest on local loans. But that does not represent the whole interest on local loans, because a further sum is paid direct by the Public Works Loan Commissioners to the National Debt Commis- 1444 sioners; and it is only by very great trouble that you can bring the whole of the figures together and see precisely how the case stands.
Again, this money has been lent out by different Bodies and in different ways. Some loans have been made by the Public Works Loan Commissioners in England, and others by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, and by the Land Commissioners in Ireland. Now, what I venture to think is essential, especially in view of the growing character of these demands for local loans, is that a separate account altogether should be kept with regard to this kind of expenditure and revenue, and I propose to take it entirely out of the Budget, and to establish a separate account, with separate receipts and expenditure. The Committee will see that no one can estimate what our National Debt is if we do not know against how much of it there are sets-off on the other side. For instance, if we were to add to local loans £10,000,000, we might raise them by adding £10,000,000 to Consoles. That £10,000,000 would then enter into the body of our National Debt; and it might seem that we had increased the National Debt while we had not really increased it. We had been incurring a liability, but we had an asset on the other side. Therefore, by a somewhat complicated process, I want to clear the National Budget entirely from local loans, parting with the interest which is now paid to the National Exchequer, and, at the same time, relieving ourselves of so much of the Debt as is represented by existing and solvent local loans.
Let me point out how, under the present system, local lotus are dealt with. It has been an economical system, but it appears to me to be essentially faulty in principle. Local loans run for 25. 30, and 40 years, and even longer. They are long loans, but we have been financing these local loans partly by the issue of Treasury Bills, repayable every three or six months. On the first aspect of the matter, we have, no doubt, raised this money on very economical terms. We have been borrowing to supply the funds for local loans at a rate as low as 2½ per cent; but who can guarantee that in the course of a year, or two years hence, when we have to renew these Treasury Bills, we may not have to pay a much higher rate of interest? We might have 1445 to pay 4 per cent, or oven more, in troublous times; and I hold that it is bad finance to borrow on Treasury Bills for three months or six months for what I may tall a permanent purpose. Therefore, I propose to discontinue the system of borrowing on Treasury Bills for local loan purposes, although I am not opposed to borrowing by those Bills for certain other purposes.
The plan I have to propose I will now describe. The debt we have contracted in respect of local loans that are still in force now stands as follows:—£8,000,000 was raised by Exchequer Bonds, now funded and represented by Consoles, and these 2½ per cent Exchequer and Treasury Bills are outstanding to the extent of £6,400,000, making together £15,000,000. Then the National Debt Commissioners have £1,500,000 employed in the hands of the Public Works Loan Commissioners, to whom they have lent direct. That makes a total of £24,500,000. The remainder of £12,700,000 was advanced out of Exchequer balances, and brings up the total to £37,200,000. That is the amount of local loans which is now outstanding, after deducting the sums that have been lost and remitted, Now, what I propose to do is to create £37,200,000 of Local Loan Stock, which will represent the precise sum now outstanding and owing by the localities. On that £37,200,000 there will be interest to pay at 3 par cent, which will constitute a charge on the Local Loan Fund. On the other hand, there will be transferred to that fund the £960,000 now paid direct to the Exchequer, as well as the sum which is now paid over to the National Debt Commissioners by the Public Works Loan Commissioners, so that this new account will receive the whole revenue derived from the interest on local loans, and will be charged with the whole of the interest on the Local Loans Stock of £37,200,000.
It will be of interest to the House and the country to know that there were advanced to the localities up to the 31st of March, 1887, £106,000,000. Of that sum, £5 7,200,000 have been repaid, the total sum unpaid being £48,800,000; and, £11,000,000 having been remitted, there remains the total outstanding sum of £37,200,000. [An hon. MEMBER: Is the £11,600,000 absolute loss?] Yes; the £11,600,000 is absolute loss. Now, 1446 of the amount remitted which represents absolute loss, about £7,000,000 is due to the Irish Famine; and with regard to that I say nothing, because that was a loan made by the nation with its eyes open, and under very peculiar circumstances. But I call the attention of the Committee to the remainder, which has been lost, because it is often argued that there is a post in the margin between the 3 per cent at which the State can borrow, and the 3¼ or 3¼ per cent paid by the Local Authorities. But you must establish a margin which will enable you to repay any losses which may occur. It may be said that there will be no losses, but in reply to that I point to the past, and say that the losses which remain are considerably and ought to be provided for in future arrangements. [Mr. MUNDELLA.: English losses?] I would ask not to be invited to discuss particulars now. My statement includes all losses—English losses, as well as Irish losses—but it would take me too far from the present point to go into the details. I hope, however, that my right hon. Friend, who has views on the Exchequer on some important points on which I am extremely apprehensive, does not imply that, the losses being Irish losses, there is no fear of loss on advances for English purposes. I do not know whether that is the meaning of my right lion. Friend; but, at all events, I say this—that as prudent lenders, when we do lend, we should do so with the idea that there is always the possibility of a loss, whatever may be the precautions we take to prevent it; and I hope, therefore, all those who are thoroughly interested in finance will do their best to insist that there shall be a margin, from which such losses may be made good. I have said that we are going to create £37,200,000 of Stock. As against this, I cancel £9,500,000 of the Bonds of the Public Works Loan Commissioners; I cancel £15,000,000 of existing 3 per cent Stock representing the Funded and Unfunded Debt now earmarked as Local Loans Debt, and which stands outside the permanent charge; and, besides that, I cancel a further amount of existing 3 per cent Stock—namely £12,700,000, which represents money lent directly from the Exchequer balances to the borrowing Authorities. The National Debt would have been 1447 £12,700,000 less if we had applied the balances as they were available for the reduction of the National Debt, instead of lending them out; and I am thus restoring, as it were, the position as it would have been if that money had not been so lent, by cancelling so much Funded Debt, while I create Local Loans Stock, on the other hand, to represent it.
I have myself had so much trouble in thoroughly mastering the details of this complicated business that I feel that I cannot ask any Member of the Committee to grasp the whole of the case, from the necessarily imperfect explanations I am able to make in my present Statement. I trust, however, the Committee will take from me this—that we establish an entirely new Local Loans Budget, and on that Budget everyone will be able to see precisely how the case stands. There will be a margin on that Budget, because the cost of paying the interest on the £37,200,000 will be less than the revenue produced by the interest of local loans. But I wish to charge this Local Loan Budget with an annuity, which I believe will amount to about £150,000, to make good the £4,000,000 which we have been obliged to write off, or to meet any new losses which may occur. I am anxious that the Committee and the public should know and remember that there has been this loss, and that it should be marked in this way by a special item in the Budget each year. Then, as fresh local loans are made, they will be made either out of repayments on the existing loans, falling in from year to year, or by the creation not of further National Debt, but of fresh Local Loans Stock. The financial effect, so far as the National Budget is concerned, is this—On the one hand, the Exchequer will no longer receive the Revenue amounting to £960,000 in respect of interest on Local Loans; on the other hand, we shall have no longer to provide for the charge amounting to about £630,000 in connection with Debt created for Local Loan purposes. There will, therefore, be an increase in the net Debt charge of about £330,000.
I have now to take the Committee into the very interesting subject of the charge for the National Debt. The Committee is aware of the circumstances under which the late Sir Stafford North- 1448 cote fixed the permanent charge for that Debt at £28,000,000, which has been increased to £28,037,000 by subsequent operations. The Committee is also aware that a portion of that has been suspended several times under the stress of war operations. Even during the last year the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) felt compelled to suspend the Sinking Fund to the extent of about £800,000. I wish to examine this matter in a comprehensive spirit; but I fear that I have nearly exhausted my time. I have had passing through my mind various circumstances which bear on the point, whether that sum of £28,000,000 has been rightly fixed; and when I say that, I do so with the full sense of the responsibility which I am incurring when I raise the question. The Committee will have noticed the enormous falling off, I will not say in one year or five years, but in a course of years, in the elasticity of the Revenue. The Committee will be aware that the growth of the Revenue which was expected has been absent, and that it does not now grow in proportion to the increase of the population. Does the Committee remember that when the charge of £28,000,000 was fixed the Income Tax stood at 2d. in the pound? It stands now at 8d. This is a notable point. At the end of the year 1874 . 5 the total charge on taxes was £62,633,000; the net Debt charge was £26,495,000; so that the total charge on taxes for the whole of the other Services, exclusive of the Debt Charge, was £36,138,000. Last year.be total charge on taxes was £75,340,000, the net Debt charge being £26,596,000, even after the Sinking Fund had been suspended, otherwise it would have been greater. The total left for other purposes than the National Debt was £48,744,000, as compared with £36,138,000. We are paying, exclusive of Debt charge, £12,600,000 more in taxes than at the time when the late Sir Stafford Northcote made this proposal. Now, the late Sir Stafford Northcote anticipated that there would be an ordinary growth of Revenue, and these are his words—I have no doubt, under ordinary circumstances, with the ordinary growth of Revenue, that we shall he very easily able, without any injustice to the country, to bring up the charge for Debt to £28,000,000.1449 ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; but "easily." To be able to do so, we have been obliged to increase the Income Tax to 8d. Sir Stafford Northcote went on to say—But, if this should materially alter, it would he only right to take steps to remove what we now put on.What I want the Committee to examine is, whether the circumstances have materially altered from that time when Sir Stafford Northcote proposed his Budget. When he proposed to increase the amount to £28,000,000—which he did not do at once, but spread over two or three years—we were at the end of a period of great prosperity. There was then, in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and in the minds of us all, the knowledge that the Revenue had gone on increasing by leaps and bounds. Now, let the Committee return to the figures I supplied in the earlier portion of my Statement, when I showed how there had been, in the quinquennial period preceding the time at which the £28,000,000 was fixed, an increase in the produce of taxes other than the Income Tax, amounting to 24 per cent, and that afterwards there was a decrease amounting to 3 per cent. It appears to me that the situation now is totally different; and I say, in the interest of the steady and efficient repayment of the National Debt, that it would be unwise if we were to strain our bow too tight, and if, in endeavouring to defend the £28,000,000, we were to insist on maintaining any kind of tax permanently at an unreasonable height. What has been our course during the last few years? It has not been satisfactory. The Sinking Funds have had to be suspended, and they will be suspended again, so surely as anything occurs which strains in the slightest degree the resources of the country. I admit the plausibility of the argument, that it is better you should suspend the Sinking Fund when there is distress, rather than that you should impose additional taxation. But I am not satisfied that the argument is sound. I think it is a most wholesome restraint upon any expeditions or costly undertakings that it should be necessary to impose taxation, and that you should not be able to cut the knot simply by suspending the Sinking Fund. I admit that the Sinking Fund is an admirable institution, and I should be 1450 sorry to tamper with it to any great extent. But, looking to the present situation, and at the fact that, practically, the whole burden of paying off the Debt has to be borne by the payers of Income Tax, I am disposed to think that in the interests of sound finance, and with the view of keeping up steady repayments, it is advisable to reconsider our position. I have shown the Committee that there is danger in our present financial position, because, while there is an increasing temptation to Expenditure, there is no increasing Revenue to rely upon. I do not know whether new sources of Revenue are opening out to the minds of my right hon. Friends; but unless we can discover new sources of Revenue, they will see that the retention of the present Debt charge must be a matter of increasing difficulty. For my own part, I see fresh dangers threatening the payers of direct taxation in the future. It has been a question continually-argued in this House whether the contribution which is made by personal property to the rates is insufficient. I have often argued to the contrary my-self; but the majority of the House have decided over and over again that, in some form or other, personal property will have to contribute to local taxation. With this prospect before us, is it reasonable to maintain the Income Tax, in a time of peace, at four times the figure at which it stood when the Debt charge was fixed at its present amount? Or is it reasonable, to take another point, that we should so hamper ourselves with a heavy Debt charge, that we have never anything to spare for reforms of taxation, involving an immediate loss, but which may promise great ultimate advantage to the Revenue?
I do not suggest any large or heroic measure in connection with this matter, but I do intend to submit a proposal to the Committee. I am sorry that I shall offend against the paternal affections of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), because the way I propose to reduce the charge from £28,000,000 is by dealing with the Rolling Annuities which he established. These Rolling Annuities are very complicated, and they do great credit to the ingenuity of my right hon. Friend. There are three Annuities, each amounting to £1,200,000; one for five, one for 10, and one for 15 years. They are 1451 called Rolling Annuities because, when they cease, they are re-enacted in a different form. That is to say, as each Annuity expires a further amount of Stock is to be cancelled in exchange for a new Terminable Annuity of the same amount as that then expiring. I propose to simplify these three Rolling Annuities, and to roll them up into one Annuity of the sum of £1,930,000, in lieu of the present Rolling Annuities amounting to £3,600,000. The permanent charge of Debt will be fixed at £26,000,000, as against the present permanent charge of £28,037,000. By this means the apparent relief is £2,037,000; but the Committee will remember that, under the new Local Loans Debt arrangement, the Exchequer will lose a net round receipt of £333,000. Therefore, the real relief will be £1,701,000. The provision which the proposed permanent charge of £26,000,000 contains for reducing Debt is, of course, exclusive of the operation of the old Sinking Fund. I will not trouble the Committee with any further details on that point, except to show how this will work in the future. I think the Committee will see that the amount of Debt which will still be annually redeemed will be very large indeed. It may be remembered that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) made a proposal in 1881, which, however, he did not proceed with, under which £60,000,000 of Stock would have been redeemed by 1904 by means of Terminable Annuities. Under my proposal we shall by that time have redeemed £70,000,000 of Stock by means of Terminable Annuities. The amount devoted to the repayment of Debt inside the charge of £26,000,000 will, in the present year, be about £5,000,000; and I have made a calculation that if the charge of £26,000,000 be steadily persevered with, we shall redeem £600.000,000 at par in about 52 years, and £700,000,000 in 56 years.
I submit these considerations to the Committee with the observation that I have spent so much time upon the figures themselves that I have not been able sufficiently to elaborate the arguments just addressed to the House. I rest my proposal, however, upon this broad ground—that the situation is totally different from what it was when the present arrangements were made, and that Sir 1452 Stafford North cote himself contemplated that if the circumstances altered it would be necessary to alter his system; and I lay great stress upon the fact that, unless we put the matter into what I may call an endurable form, you will risk far larger inroads upon the Sinking Fund than that which I now propose. I remind the Committee of the great difficulty which existed when taxation had to be imposed to meet special charges not long ago. An additional 2d. was put upon the payers of Income Tax, and proposals were made to tax some consumable articles. Those proposals were rejected by the House, which had to fall back on the simple process of increasing the Income Tax by 2d., and of suspending the Sinking Fund. The Sinking Fund, I maintain, is not in a strong position; it has been proved to be in an unsafe position while it continues as heavy as it is at present.
I now go back to the Surplus of which I have spoken—namely, £1,075,000, and to this must be added the relief given by the £1,704,000 taken from the Debt charge. I have, therefore, a sum to deal with of £2,779,000. The Committee will have anticipated, from the arguments which I have used, that a reduction in the Income Tax would naturally follow, and I propose to reduce the Income Tax by Id. in the pound, which involves a loss of £1,560,000 in the present year, because in these cases you do not have the whole loss in the first year. Before I pass from the subject of the Income Tax there is another change which I propose to make, which will not lead to much loss of Revenue, and the small probable loss from which is included in the £1,560,000. It is a relief that, to my mind, is an act of justice, and which will be given to a rather suffering portion of the community. I wish to renew a proposal which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh—namely, to give farmers the option of being taxed on their actual profits under Schedulde D, rather than on the arbitrary basis adopted in Schedule B. Farmers and occupiers of land, generally, are taxed on the half of their rent in England, and on one-third of their rent in Ireland and Scotland. the question is, have farmers earned half their rent during late times? I know that in many cases farmers have 1453 been paying Income Tax on a larger amount than they have actually earned. I judge from the fact that out of a total of upwards of 400,000 assessments, there have only been 10,000 cases of appeal against what appears, on the face of it, to be too high a charge. In many parts of England the profits have, as a rule, been a great deal less than half the rent. When the proposal was made before, it was suggested that the farmers did not keep accounts, and that they would not be able to make statements of their profits, and that they would, therefore object to be charged under Schedule D. To get over that difficulty I propose, for the present, to maintain Schedule B, so that they may still be charged under that Schedule if they prefer it; but if they wish it, they can be charged under Schedule D. The exercise of this option will obviate the necessity of a local appeal, which involves proceedings in the localities to which objection is taken, and will give the farmers an opportunity of appealing to the Special Commissioners in the same manner as other persons who are assessable under Schedule D.
This question of the farmers reminds me of the ratepayers and of the promises which have been often held out, and the plans which have been continually entertained, with regard to large reforms in our system of local finance. The Committee is aware that the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) has a large measure in preparation which deals both with the subject of local authorities and that of local finances. The Government has recognized, and previous Governments have recognized, that it is their duty to go forward in this matter, and to recast local finance to a very considerable extent. But the difficulty has always been this—and it is a difficulty which remains at this moment—that you cannot begin your financial reform until you have constituted your new authorities. Nor will you be able to have half the interest taken in the Bill and half the steam-power, so to speak, necessary to carry it, if all the financial reforms are made in the first instance. Now, Her Majesty's Government stand by that doctrine as their Predecessors have stood by it, and they hope for the assistance of Parliament in order that they may have the earliest possible opportunity of pro- 1454 ducing their plan. Hon. Gentleman will ask, perhaps, whether something might not be done in the interval—whether the principle of handing over taxes to Local Authorities, which has been the favourite scheme of Local Government reformers, should not at least be initiated? It may be asked, for instance, whether the Carriage Tax cannot be handed over at once to the localities? Well, I am prepared to hand over an amount equivalent to the Carriage Tax to the Local Authorities. The contribution which is now made in relief of main roads and turnpikes in England and Scotland, is £280,000. I propose to double that contribution, and give them £560,000, which is about the amount of the Carriage Tax, until such time as we can hand over the Carriage Tax itself.
Looking to the long-enduring patience of those who have been promised relief, and who, through the accidents of legislation, have had that relief delayed, and may still have it delayed for another year, I think some concession should be made at once. It should be distinctly understood that this is not a permanent arrangement, and that it is only in anticipation of the transfer of the Carriage Tax in future; and it is in view of the transference of that tax in its entirety at some early day to the Local Authorities, that I have been unable to revise the whole of it in the manner which was pressed upon me by a very influential deputation. To use a forcible expression, such deputations may "have it out" with the Local Authorities when the Carriage Tax is transferred.
Hon. Members from Ireland will possibly be wondering whether, if England and Scotland get a been which amounts to £245,000 for England and £35,000 for Scotland, Ireland is to be forgotten entirely. Ireland contributes nothing towards the Carriage Tax, and, therefore, so far as the transfer of the tax to Local Authorities for main roads and turnpikes is concerned, Ireland would have no claim. At the same time—and we have had debates on this subject—I do not consider that Ireland is paying too little to the Imperial Revenue as it stands at the present time. I demur to the statement that Ireland is paying too little as I do to the statement that she is paying too much. In making these concessions to England and Scotland, I do not wish to change the present balance 1455 as between Ireland and Great Britain; and, therefore, I propose to reserve £50,000 for Ireland, for what I call purposes analogous to this contribution on account of main roads in England and Scotland. I am not disposed to think that this should be given in aid of the county cess, as the relief in England is given to the county rate; because the amount is so small that it would not be an appreciable benefit to the taxpayers. I consider that it would be a better system to give the bulk of it in aid of arterial drainage, to which so much importance is attached, and which has been inquired into by a Royal Commission, whose Report is shortly expected. [Mr. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.): How much a year?] It will be £50,000 a-year, on the same terms as the temporary arrangement with regard to England and Scotland. I shall be able at a later time, when the Report of the Commission has been presented, to come to a clearer conclusion as to the best mode of applying this £50,000. I have omitted to say that the grant of £245,000 in England is given to the County Authority and not to the Highway Authority. The present system is that the County pays a half, and the Highway Authority a half, but that a half of the Highway Authority's half—that is to say, a quarter of the whole—is repaid to the Highway Authority by the State. We should propose henceforth to pay a quarter to the County Authority, besides continuing to pay the quarter to the Highway Authority. That will apply also to Scotland, and in the Metropolis, where the roads are under Local Authority. [Mr. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.): The whole is to be paid to the County Authority?] Yes; the whole of the additional contribution.
I now pass on to another point—the last but one with which I shall trouble the Committee. I spoke of the desirability of making occasional changes in duties, not simply for the purpose of remitting taxation, but with the object of improving our financial system. We ought to have margin enough to rectify an error when it is made. There is one error which, I believe, all parties admit to have been made in the fiscal legislation of late years—namely, the raising of the Tobacco Duties by id. The Tobacco Duties were raised from 3s. 2d. or, more strictly, 3s. 1¾d to 3s. 6d. in 1878, and 1456 the fiscal result of that has been most unsatisfactory. The first year under the higher duty was expected to yield an increased revenue of £750,000; but it only yielded £500,000 additional, and in subsequent years the result has been still more unfavourable. The increase in the consumption of tobacco, which was 11 per cent during the five years between 1872 and 1876, fell to 5.8 per cent in the period between 1877 and 1881, when the new rate of duty first came into operation, and to 4.4 per cent in the period between 1882 and 1886, when it was in full force. The change checked the consumption of tobacco; what was the effect upon the quality of the tobacco I must leave to smokers to determine. It will be seen that the consumption per head has not increased in the ratio of the population. The increase in the consumption of tobacco before the duty was raised was twice as great as the increase of population; but since that time the consumption has not increased as fast as the population. The consumption per head is now less than it was. But there is this most curious fact. It is not quite so certain that people have smoked less pipes or fewer cigars than before. The same thing has occurred with tobacco as with beer. There has been an admixture of water with the tobacco to increase weight. Hon. Members will recollect that the duty is 3s. 6d., and the ordinary price which a working man pays for his tobacco is 4s. a pound. He pays 3d. per ounce for his tobacco. When the duty was increased it was supposed that he would pay 3¾d., and that, in that way, the dealers and manufacturers would be able to recoup themselves. But that is not what has happened. He still will not pay more than 3d. per ounce; and, therefore, tobacco has to be produced at 3d. How is this done? It is done by increasing the amount of water contained in the tobacco. The purchaser buys a nominal ounce as before, but he really buys less tobacco and more water; and, in that way, the Revenue loses and the smoker gets a worse article. The price of 3d. is almost too small to enable the manufacturer to produce the tobacco with the duty at 3s. 6d., and I propose to reduce the duty from 3s. &d. to 3s. 2d. 3s. 2d. precisely, not 3s. l¾d which it used to be. That, I trust, will be a con- 1457 siderable been to those amongst the working classes who smoke tobacco; and, although it will not affect their pockets, they will get a better article. What we have to provide against is that the purchaser shall not get precisely the same article as he did before the duty was reduced, and therefore we propose to limit, by law, the watering process by which at present the dealer recoups himself for the extra duty. At present tobacco is often sold containing 40 or 45 per cent of water. In future we propose to make it illegal to sell tobacco containing more than 35 per cent of water. In the same way as in the case of beer, when deterioration by water has been put a stop to, we shall hope for an increased yield of duty, because more tobacco will be disposed of. What we propose in this matter involves an immediate loss to the Revenue of £600,000; but if it restores the old prosperity of the tobacco trade it will be a gain in the long run.
I come now to my last point—namely, a small charge which I propose to make upon a certain limited class of policies of marine assurance. There are policies where the premium amounts to less than ⅛ per cent, or 2s. 6d. in the £100. The present duty of '3>d. upon these constitutes a very large proportion of their total cost to the insurer; and where the premium is, for instance, only 9d., which is often the case with regard to articles transmitted from France, the duty amounts to 33 per cent of the premium; but on all premiums of 2s. 6d. it amounts to 10 per cent. The effect of this heavy charge is to drive the greater part of the insurance business to Paris and other foreign cities, the English Insurance Companies being unable to compete with the low premiums of foreign Companies. We propose to put 1d. only on all policies whore the premium amounts to 2s. 6d. or less per cent. That will involve a loss to the Revenue of about £20,000; but this I have already taken account of in putting my net gain in respect of changes in the Stamp Duties at £100,000.
I will now, with the permission of the Committee, to whom I beg to return my most hearty thanks for the extreme kindness with which they have listened to my statement, summarize the proposals I have made. I have a surplus of about £975,000. The Debt charge is reduced by £1,704,000. There is a gain of 1458 £100,000 by changes in the Stamp Duties. That gives a total of £2,779,000. I propose to take £600,000 off the Tobacco Duties; \d. from the Income Tax, which represents £1,560,000; then there are grants of £280,000 in aid of local taxation, in England and Wales, and £00,000 for arterial drainage in Ireland. That makes a total of £2,490,000, which, taken from £2,779,000, leaves a balance of £289,000, or, in round numbers, £300,000. These are the proposals which I submit to the Committee.
I have felt painfully, whilst giving my best attention to these matters in the short time I have held my present Office, that it has not been possible for me to go so exhaustively into the question of the taxation of the country as a Chancellor of the Exchequer is bound to do. I acknowledge, in submitting these partial proposals, that I leave untouched many of those tasks to which a Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to give his attention. I leave untouched the Death Duties, which require attention in the promptest manner. I have said that in the Stamp Duties there are large reforms to be made. There is the question of the currency and the coinage, with its results upon the Revenue, which is a matter for future consideration. There is the whole question of local taxation which has to be examined and probed to the bottom. With all these great subjects I have been unable to deal; but I feel that if I had been able to submit proposals with regard to them, such large questions would have been involved that it would have been impossible to find time for their discussion in the present state of business. I have left also to the future the analysis of the proportions in which the different parts and classes of the Empire contribute to Imperial taxation and the consideration whether those proportions are just. It is certainly the duty of a Chancellor of the Exchequer to review these great questions, which have, perhaps, been too long allowed to drift. It may be that the relation which is borne by the taxation of the working classes to that of other classes is too high, or it may be that, in consequence of the change, which, as I have proved, has taken place, in the comparative productiveness of different branches of the Revenue, it is not too high; but what I wish earnestly to impress upon the Com- 1459 mittee, both as an individual and as a Member of the Government, is, that they are not to conclude from the fact that I only submit these proposals, that we are not perfectly aware that there are much larger tasks before us—much larger tasks either for ourselves or those who may follow us.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the Duties of Customs now charge able on Tea shall continue to he levied and charged on and after the first day of August, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven, until the first day of August, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-eight, on the importation thereof into Great Britain or Ireland (that is to say), on
Tea … the pound. Sixpence."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
It is quite superfluous that I should express my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) upon the ability with which he has performed his task, an ability which everyone knew he would display as the result of his experience in commercial affairs. I confess I have heard his statement with reference to the yield of the Revenue and the result of last year's finance with some satisfaction. I remember that at the time it was my duty to bring forward the Budget people were determined to take a very dismal view of the condition of the country. When I ventured to lay before the House an Estimate of the Revenue last year, I was warned in a paternal manner by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) that I was much too sanguine, and that things were so bad that it was impossible that it could come up to the Estimate which I made. I was warned with still greater authority by the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool (Mr. Baden-Powell), who demonstrated by very elaborate figures that no such Revenue could possibly be looked for, owing to the condition of the country. I entirely refused to take that view of the financial situation. No doubt, there is a great loss of that elasticity which for a certain period characterized English finance; but it would be entirely wrong to form an estimate of the general condition of the finance of the country from the standard of that particular period. I was a little surprised that my right hon. Friend should have referred to that period for 1460 a standard by which to judge the future finance of the country. The truth is that no great falling-off has occurred, and that the resources of the country are well maintained. I contended last year—and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer admits the fact—that there is no proof of failure in the consuming power of the people; and there is no proof of failure in their accumulating wealth. The latter is quite plain from the fact that the yield from the Death Duties has not diminished; last year it reached a point which it never reached before, and it is not much lower this year. Then, as regards the Income Tax, I am glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the yield of the penny has reached the highest point, with the exception of one or two years, that it has ever reached. That seems to me to show that, in spite of all we have heard, there is no failure of resources of Revenue, and that they are, in fact, quite unimpaired. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer shows that there is greater distribution of the wealth of the country; but surely that is not a bad thing, because it gives greater stability to your finance, which rests not upon the few, but the many, which proves that the condition of the country, as a whole, has improved. Now, no doubt there has been a great falling-off in the spirit revenue since the year before last. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has explained that the variation between the Customs and the Excise upon the yield of this year is a mere transfer from one account to another. Now, as regards beer, another great test of the consuming power of the people, the revenue has been very steady since 1882. I observe that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimates a considerable rise in the Beer Duty in the future year. As regards wine, I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what he has not already told us—namely, what is the amount of the loss on wine which is due to the Spanish Treaty. I think it was estimated at something like £80,000 or £90,000, but I do not know whether that Estimate has been reached or exceeded.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I must apologize for 1461 not having mentioned the point. As a matter of fact, the loss has been larger than the figures quoted by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The Wine Duty is a decreasing duty unquestionably. It is a decreasing duty from a multitude of causes). It is decreasing partly because, as we have all noticed at the tables we frequent, a great deal less wine is drunk than was formerly consumed. In future the quantity of wine consumed in this country will still further diminish, owing to the reduced quantity of good wine that is produced, and to the fact that the population of the world is rapidly increasing. The Wine Duty, therefore, which has decreased, must continue to decrease. The revenue from tea, however, is increasing in a most satisfactory manner. The duty derived from the consumption of tea is £300,000 more than it was in the previous year. It is £127,000 more than estimated, and this sum represents the increased consumption in a single year. The increase of the Tobacco Duty has been slow. Well, the remarks I have made have been with reference to the yield upon the consumption of the people as regards articles of Customs and Excise: and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was good enough to say something civil of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the calculations of the yield of these articles. But the merit does not really belong to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at all—it belongs to those able and competent gentlemen who are at the head of the Departments of Customs and Excise, and who have shown such marvellous skill in estimating the produce of these articles, and whose advice every Chancellor of the Exchequer who is wise and prudent will always abide by. I have often heard people say—indeed, when I produced my Estimates last year, it was said—"Oh, these Estimates are a great deal too high." Sometimes people say the Estimates are too low; but the people who express these opinions have no means of judging at all. The opinions upon which the right hon. Gentleman acts are those of the people who are thoroughly competent to form a judgment. Well, now, passing from the Revenue which tests the consuming 1462 power of the people, just let us look at the items which relate to the wealthier classes. Now, here is the Probate Duty, which has been very steady during the last four years. It is a little over £4,000,000. Therefore, when people talk about the general ruin of all classes of the landed interest and of the commercial classes, how comes it that your Probate Duty yields practically as much as it did before these periods of assumed and asserted distress? Now, the Legacy and Succession Duty has yielded more than the Estimate, because the anticipated falling-off, which was supposed to accrue in consequence of the loss of the arrears which have been collected in former years, has not proved as great as expected. General stamps have yielded £200,000 more than estimated. This, no doubt, is duo to the greater activity of commercial enterprize in transactions of Companies like Messrs. Allsopps'. I am surprised at one observation made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—namely, that the stamps were a source of revenue that did not increase I must have misapprehended what the right hon. Gentleman intended to say, because, according to my observation, stamps have very largely increased in recent years. I hold in my hands The Statistical Abstract, and if you look at the Estimate of the stamps in a succession of years you will find that the yield of the Stamp Duty is much larger than it was in former times. You will find, for instance, that in the year 1876 the revenue from stamps was much lower than it is at the present time. These circumstances do not show any failure in the Revenue and in the resources of the country. Well, now, take the Income Tax. The Income Tax has yielded £145,000 more than the Estimate; and therefore, I confess, I cannot concur altogether in the rather despondent view which the right hon. Gentleman takes of the condition of the Revenue. I have no doubt some figures connected with the alcoholic revenue will continue to fall. There is no question that the habits of the people are tending more and more to the discontinuance of the consumption of alcoholic drinks. Those were remarkable figures which were given in a letter to The Times newspaper some weeks ago as to the consumption of alcoholic; drinks by the people. It was stated that the cost 1463 to the consumers of alcohol in the country was £123,000,000 a-year. It occurred to me that if the people of this country would apply for six years that expenditure to the liquidation of the Debt, the Debt would be entirely discharged at the end of that period. The whole of the National Debt could be so wiped out, and the whole of the £28,000,000 of annual charge in the shape of interest would be gone at once. There is no doubt, therefore, that this question of alcoholic revenue is one which lies very much at the bottom of our system of taxation. Upon this point I would mention one circumstance which in some of our debates is occasionally referred to. It is asserted that the Irish people have increased their consumption of spirits; that there is more drinking in Ireland, and that that proves the prosperity of the country. It is not true: the consumption of drink in Ireland has largely diminished, and is diminishing; and, therefore, I hope the argument I have referred to may not be used on future occasions. Well, now, I have made these remarks on the yielded revenue in order to defend myself, after a lapse of 12 months, from the charge which was brought against me by my critics. I think The Times accused me of being influenced by a cheerful optimism, which had no foundation, in assuming that the Revenue would be as I estimated. It has, in point of fact, turned out to be £700,000 better than that estimate of cheerful optimism. I do not know whether the present Chancellor of the Exchequer will be accused in his turn of dismal pessimism, which is obviously the spirit in which he looks at matters of this description. But, however that may be, the right hon. Gentleman has a very satisfactory surplus of £700,000 as regards the past year, and a Budget surplus amounting to something like £1,000,000. Now, I had estimates of revenue furnished me by the heads of the Departments, and I thought it right to make provision for the suspension of the two Sinking Funds, amounting to £800,000. But, whichever way that power was taken, if the Revenue, in point of fact, was more than I had expected, the increased sum would go to the benefit of the Debt. You either would not have suspended the Sinking Fund, or, if you did, then the surplus you possessed would, under the action 1464 of law, go to the reduction of the Debt. As I understand, in the course of the present year the provision for the liquidation of the Debt will have taken effect so as to discharge Debt to the full amount which was contemplated, quite apart from the suspension of the Sinking Fund. The surplus which has accrued upon the existing year will go in liquidation of the Debt. Is that not so?
Yes; if the right hon. Gentleman had not suspended the Sinking Fund, he would have been bound to make provision for some surplus.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I was not alluding to what I should have had to do, but to what has been the result of the financial year. As I understand, there has been no diminution in the monies contributed to the reduction of Debt. In point of fact, the yield of revenue made it unnecessary to have made that provision. It having been unnecessary to make that provision, the surplus will practically go to make up the reduction of the Debt, so that, in fact, the Debt has been reduced this year to its full amount. That is the practical result. Now, I agree very much with what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said upon the prospect of the Expenditure of this country. The real truth is that, though the Revenue is stagnant, the Expenditure is constantly increasing. I only hope that his appeals upon this subject may have a little more effect upon the side of the House on which he now sits than any we have been able to make on that subject. I quite agree it is not the fault so much of one Government or another, but it is the fault of the House of Commons in encouraging and pressing on an immense increase of expenditure. It is perfectly true that the Civil Service Expenditure—that is to say, the cost of the Civil Administration of the country—has not increased at all. Practically speaking, you are doing the whole work of this country, and doing a great deal more business than was done before in the Departments, for the same amount of money as formerly. There has been no increase at all. The large increase has been upon the education of the people. Well, we intended to make that increase, and it may be considered as a head apart. The other increase was one of policy on the part of hon. Gentlemen 1465 opposite. I will not discuss whether it was right or wrong—I refer to the aid of local taxation. Now, if it operated as it was intended to operate, it would be merely a change from one form of taxation to another. But, I am afraid it has led to a great increase of expenditure, because the system has been such as to increase the extravagance of Local Authorities. I had experience of that at the Home Office. After all, it is not in the Civil Service Expenditure that you have any prospect whatever of reduction. You are not going to reduce your expenditure on education, that is certain; Gentlemen opposite are not going to reduce Expenditure in the form of contributions to local burdens; and they cannot reduce the expenditure on the Civil Administration of the Departments, because it has not increased. There is only one way in which the Expenditure of this country can be reduced, and that is by decrease in the Naval and Military Expenditure. Everybody knows that it is upon that expenditure that the enormous growth has taken place, and it is from that expenditure, and that expenditure alone, that the financial difficulties of the country spring. You have not suffered any diminution of revenue; all you have suffered from is from the increase of your expenditure; and what prospect is there of the House of Commons being relieved in that respect? I confess I see extremely little. The right hon. Gentleman must be a very sanguine man if he thinks that the increases which have been made are temporary. Why, what has he heard from Gentlemen who sit behind him which leads him to think that the increases are temporary? He has not had the pressure put upon him where he sits that was put upon us. I remember when the present First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) proposed from this Bench last year that there should be created Terminable Annuities of £2,000,000 for the purpose of Naval and Military Expenditure; and I remember that another noble and gallant Lord—the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford)—now in the Admiralty, proposed that £5,000,000 should be raised. Nobody was found on these Benches then to object to either of these proposals. The right hon. Gentleman is relieved a little from that pressure; 1466 but he has a number of hon. and gallant Gentlemen behind him who approve of large expenditure upon the Navy and Army. I see that a most elaborate demand is made by an hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, the Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley). The hon. and gallant Gentleman demands an enormous expenditure for the defence of the country. I looked through his lecture to see where the danger was to come from. There was a whole scheme for the defence of London against an invasion of England by Russia. Russia was coming from the Baltic—Russia, which hardly has an ocean-going man-of-war, was going to conquer the British Fleet in the Baltic, and to land an enormous force upon our shores. That was the reason for the hon. and gallant Gentleman's demand for an enormous expenditure. It is quite true that the expenditure on account of which we are suffering is due to what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer very properly and truly described as a newspaper scare. Well, so long as the House of Commons and the British public will allow itself to be made the victim of these newspaper scares, so long will the Expenditure of this country outrun the Revenue of the country. Now, I do not think it is at all a bad thing that the main pressure of this has fallen upon the payers of the Income Tax, because, as a class, the payers of the Income Tax are, if I may use a popular expression, the "Jingo class." They are the people who call for this expenditure. I do not believe that the mass of the people of this country desire this expenditure at all, but are really averse to it. There are, however, people who are demanding all sorts of other expenditure. I see day by day Members of Parliament desiring large additional expenditure. For instance, an hon. Member addresses a letter to the head of a Department, and then demands that it shall be printed as a Parliamentary Paper at the public expense. It is a most extraordinary proceeding, and why Government should consent to it, unless they are extremely desirous to be pressed into further expenditure, I cannot conceive. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Henniker Heaton), who is apparently the dry nurse of the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes), has under- 1467 taken to advocate every species of expenditure in that Department. I hope the Treasury will beware of the hon. Member for Canterbury. The fact is, the Post Office is not only an useful institution, but it contributes something as a good business to the alleviation of the public taxation; but since what I may call, the period of extravagance commenced in 1881 the not profit from the Post Office has largely diminished. No doubt the receipts have increased, but the expenditure has increased in a greater ratio. In the year 1881, I think it was, the telegraphs paid their way. They did more than that—they paid within a few thousand pounds the interest upon capital expended. Now, the whole of that capital, amounting to £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 sterling, is written off as a bad debt. It does not pay a farthing, and you find that the telegraphs do not pay their way. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will furnish us with a Return of the Expenditure and Revenue of the Post Office in recent years. You cannot afford, in the present state of your Revenue, to play ducks and drakes with the revenue of the Post Office, and I shall always support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in resisting wild and foolish demands. Now, before I say anything as to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there are one or two things I should like him to give me some information upon. First of all, I should like to know what he proposes to do with regard to the Floating Debt which was increased by the Treasury Minute? I should like to know how, according to his view, the Floating Debt is to stand in reference to the increased power of issuing Treasury Bills which has been taken? There is another matter which I desire to mention before I go to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, and on which I am rather sorry he has not said anything—the present state of the gold coinage. When I was in Office I was very strongly impressed with the seriousness of that matter. The state of our gold coinage is really a disgrace to the country. It has been neglected now for some 45 years, till at last its condition is shameful—I can use no other word—to a great commercial people like ourselves. I certainly had desired and intended to 1468 deal with the matter. I believe it would require a sum of £700,000 or £800,000 to put the gold coinage right now. I do not believe it is possible to act upon the principle which was contended for in 1843 by Sir Robert Peel, and with some modifications enforced—namely, throwing the loss upon the last holder. I do not believe that the people of this country would stand that at all. It was not done by Lord North, even under the pressure of circumstances at the time of the American War when our gold coinage was rectified. Another rectification of the gold coinage took place when Sir Isaac Newton was at the Mint, and it was also paid for by the State, and I believe you will in some form or other have to do that now. I cannot think that the present condition of the coinage can be allowed to continue much longer, and I should have been very glad if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had used some of his surplus in rectifying it. You may do it in several ways. You may either find all the money at once, which, after all, I think you ought to do, or if you do not do that you might spread it over by an annuity—a term of 10 or 20 years. There is a fund which ought to keep the coinage right once put straight, and that is the profits of the Mint upon seigniorage upon silver and gold. That fund is much larger now than it was before the change in the price of silver, I believe that that sum amounts to something like £30,000, and would be amply sufficient to keep the gold coinage right. I hope we are still going to be a country whose currency rests upon gold. I hope that as the Commission upon Fair Trade knocked that fallacy on the head, so the Commission on bimetallism will dispose for ever of bimetallism. That is generally the result of Commissions of this character. Of course, if you are going to have bimetallism, it is no use putting the gold coinage right; it would not be worth while spending money on a coinage which was no longer to be your own. But if, as I hope, this country is going to keep its currency upon the basis of gold, it will not consent to have its currency so greatly debased as the present currency is. Upon the bimetallism question I feel very easy, because I think everybody admits that that is a folly we cannot commit with- 1469 out the co-operation of the rest of the world; and as Germany and France, and, I believe, other countries, have seen the enormous advantage which England has derived from its monetary system, and have determined to imitate it, they are not likely to turn their backs upon the system. Now, connected with this question there is another point which I should very much like to have information, or, at all events, the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon, and that is the employment of £1 notes. It is now a great many years since I had the advantage of ascertaining the opinion of Sir George Cornewall Lewis upon this subject. He could see no reason whatever why £1 notes should not be supplied as well as £5 notes, and why they should not be employed in England as well as in Scotland and Ireland. There has been a great deal of misconception upon this subject altogether. Some people expect enormous benefit from the circulation of £1 notes, while other people anticipate a very great danger. I think both opinions are over-stated. The advantages in a pecuniary sense to the Exchequer would not be as much as some people suppose, because the cost of putting and keeping them in circulation would be considerable, though I do not think there would be any need to go to the expensive methods adopted in the case of £5 notes. There is no question whatever that the circulation of £1 notes would save a certain amount of gold, which would be advantageous in the present condition of things; it would save a certain amount of wear and tear, which would be an advantage. But there is a much greater advantage than that—namely, the great convenience these notes would afford in the payment of wages, especially in cases where money has to be sent to distant parts, and where there is great difficulty in sending it. £1 notes would unquestionably be a great convenience under these circumstances, and what I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the possibility, without altering the present state of the currency, of having, instead of 1,000,000 £5 notes, 5,000,000 £1 notes, and thus ascertain what convenience would be afforded to the public. No possible harm could arise from the experiment. 1470 It seems to me an experiment which it would be extremely well worth trying. There is one other matter which I should like to mention to the right hon. Gentleman. I hope he will endeavour to do something in regard to the state of Public Accounts. If you endeavour now to discover, without the secret resources of the Treasury, what is the real expenditure upon a particular item, or what is the revenue derived from any particular item, you take up three or four separate accounts applying to the same matter, and you find a different figure given in each. You take up the Budget Statement to-night. That is founded upon Exchequer issues or Exchequer receipts. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained, Exchequer receipts from the Income Tax are totally different from the actual receipts. You take up the Finance Account and the Appropriation Account; you take up this very useful book, The Statistical Abstract, and in reference to the same subject-matter you find a different figure in all. That is a most unsatisfactory state of things; and I hope some endeavour will be made to give one adjusted account. At present, I defy any ordinary mortal to ascertain what is the real Expenditure or Revenue of the country from the accounts as furnished by the Treasury in the Budget. There is one other matter in reference to these accounts in which I have taken considerable interest, and as to which I should like to know what progress has been made. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pointed out how entirely deficient we are in anything like an accurate or true account of what has been spent on local advances. But there is another matter in regard to which our information is deficient, and that is the history of what has been done in successive years in the liquidation of Debt. My right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) procured a very valuable and interesting account, which goes back a certain number of years, in reference to the National Debt, and what has been done in regard to its liquidation. But that only goes back to 1874, and positively at this time we are without any authentic information as to what has been done with the Debt since 1815. I think such a Return might be made by the Treasury, so that the coun- 1471 try might really have an authentic account showing what was the state of the Debt in each particular year, and what has been done year by year in respect of its liquidation. Really, the country ought not to be without such a statement as that. Now, the most important matter which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought before us to-night is the growth of Expenditure. The Expenditure in the year 1871, so short a time ago as that, was £68,000,000. In the year 1877 it was £77,000,000, and in the year 1887 it is £91,000,000. Now, that is really the history of the difficulty in which we find ourselves, and unless we are encouraged to do something towards decreasing this Expenditure we shall never get anything like a satisfactory reduction of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman finds himself with a surplus of £1,000,000, in spite of any increase of taxation, I would, first of all, observe that, with a surplus of £1,000,000, he could perfectly well have done all he proposed, except taking 1d. off the Income Tax. He could have reduced the Tobacco Duty; he could have made local loans to England and Scotland and Ireland; all that could have been done within the range of what I may call his natural surplus. The natural surplus is the surplus yielded by the existing taxation as compared with the proposed Expenditure. As regards the reduction of the Tobacco Duty, I think it is a very good thing. The raising of the Tobacco Duty by Sir Stafford Northcote, which, after all, was only effected for the purpose of expenditure on a policy which, we disapproved, was a scheme which we objected to at the time. We predicted that it would not be a successful measure. I believe it was very much resented, and I think it is quite time it was done away with, and I agree that what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes in this respect is a very good use to make of his natural surplus. As to the contribution towards Highway Rates, I do not desire to make any comment at the present time. But then the right hon. Gentleman, not content with disposing in this way of his natural surplus, proceeds to create an artificial surplus. Now, his first proposal is to transfer the Stamp Duty upon Railway Companies. I see no objection to that in principle; 1472 it was brought before me when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the only reason I did not propose it was because I learned that some of the principal Railway Companies were greatly averse to it, especially the London and North Western Railway Company. I do not know whether that Company have changed their mind; but if not, and this is only a voluntary or optional scheme, it is not likely to produce a great deal of money. If the Railway Companies do not adopt the change there will not be any great result.
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURTM
I will reserve anything I have to say upon that subject until I have had an opportunity of inquiring a little further into it. Well, as regards local loans, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke as if he were making some new revelation to the world—that there were these local loans, which were, in point of fact, to be treated as assets in reduction of the Debt. That is a thing which everybody knows. It has been annually returned to Parliament. Now, I come to what is the right hon. Gentleman's main proposal, and upon that I must make this observation, that without treating it as a combative matter at all the proposal is an extremely simple one. It is to abandon the provision for the payment of the Debt to the extent of £2,000,000. That is what his proposal means. I remember the indignant comment of the Opposition Members of that day, when, under the pressure of peculiar circumstances, and owing to the demands of the War Office, we proposed temporarily to suspend even to the extent of £500,000 the provision for the payment of Debt. "Oh," it was said, "what bad finance this is." Well, at all events, we maintained the principle that, except under peculiar circumstances, there was to be an effort made for the liquidation of the Debt. Now, what does the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer do? He says—" No; we will permanently abandon the attempt to discharge the Debt, and instead of making the annual contribution to the discharge of Debt £7,000,000 we will make it £5,000,000." That may be a wise or an unwise operation; but it is a very serious operation, and in my opinion it is practically a 1473 fatal blow to any attempt to discharge Debt. Now, what is the pretence on which this is done? I wonder what would have been said if such a proposal had been made by us? Hon. Gentlemen opposite would have said—" These reckless Radicals care about nothing but diminishing taxation. They care nothing about the prudent provision that has been made for the redemption of the Debt." Well, I remember that when Sir Stafford Northcote originally made that proposal, enormous credit was taken for the provision which was to be made for the liquidation of the Debt. Here, however, we have a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer—I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will forgive the title I give him; I may say I only give it him in a financial sense—making the first serious proposal for overthrowing the provision for the liquidation of the Debt. Now, mark what the argument is upon which he founds his proposal, He simply says—" Oh, circumstances are not exactly the same as they were. The difficulties now are greater than formerly. When we proposed to pay £28,000,000 a-year times were better, and now times are worse, and we will only pay £26,000,000." Another Chancellor of the Exchequer, who may come next year or the year after, may say—"Oh, times are not so good as they were; the pressure of taxation is very great, we will only pay £24,000,000 a-year." It is an argument which can be used by anybody at any time who wants to got rid of the burden of discharging Debt; and, therefore, I say this is a blow which is, in my opinion, absolutely fatal to the provision for the liquidation of the Debt. Of course, it is always popular with the payers of the Income Tax or payers of any other tax to say—" Oh, come what may, let us do something in relief of taxation." I only point out that there is nothing peculiar in this argument to the present situation. It is one which may be applied at any future time; and it is the greatest encouragement which any Chancellor of the Exchequer could possibly have given to that reckless expenditure of which the right hon. Gentleman has complained. It is the way to encourage and to find the means for this extravagant expenditure. The only check there is upon this expenditure is to make it felt in taxation. If you choose 1474 to make expenditure easy by this method, you may go on first of all by taking off £2,000,000 one year from the effort you are making to discharge Debt; you may take off £2,000,000 the next year, £2,000,000 the next, and so on, until you come to the point where you are only paying what you are obliged to pay. Then, when it seems you have got to the end of your resources, you may borrow, and so you may go on, having broken down the provision for the liquidation of the Debt which I consider one of the fundamental provisions of sound finance. I do not know what else is to be said beyond what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us in defence of his proposal to-night. I do not desire to enter at full length into this discussion. It is thoroughly well understood that on the first night of the Budget one only makes cursory remarks upon the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but I hope that when this question comes to be thoroughly debated in the House the full seriousness of this proposal and of its consequences will be understood. It is a totally different thing from a mere temporary suspension. You may describe it in this way—it is a permanent suspension of the Sinking Fund or the Fund for the discharge of Debt to the amount of £2,000,000, for the purpose of removing 1d. from the Income Tax. I should like [to have seen 1d. or 1d. removed from the Income Tax by a very different process; not by giving up the efforts to discharge Debt, but by reducing the foolish and reckless extravagance of the country. I believe that if only people would come back to the principles of common sense, by which we were governed a few years ago, before the newspaper scares, we might reduce the Expenditure of this country, with perfect safety and with great advantage, by at least £4,000,000, and you might get rid of 2d. in the Income Tax by a process of that kind which would be quite satisfactory. But what is the course the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer recommends? That you should go on with this Expenditure, and that you should find the means for it by abandoning the efforts made for the discharge of Debt. Well, I am afraid that is a course which may have very serious 1475 consequences in the future, and I hope it may receive the careful attention of the House. I only rose for the purpose of making a few occasional remarks, if I may so call them, upon the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I have now only to congratulate him upon having so good a natural increment. But I wish he could have done what he proposes without sacrificing the provisions for the discharge of Debt.
§ MR. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) has done me the honour of referring to the remarks I made on the Budget Statement of last year. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the cheerful optimism by which it was said he was influenced; but I venture to say that he had not in his mind when he made his Budget Statement last year one great fact, and that was that there would be a change of Government. Now, Sir, if we look to figures, we notice that there is a dismal history of a gradually declining Revenue, quarter by quarter, for two years past, until the Conservative Government came into power, and then the minus quantity was changed into a plus quantity. [Laughter,] Right hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh; but these are facts, and facts are, after all, what we are dealing with. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) has given us a Statement which, I am sure must command the admiration of everybody. He has, on several points, introduced the germs of reform, which I hope he will carry much further when opportunity offers. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the system of redistribution of profits, and that system—I take it—is at the bottom of much of the present return to prosperity. Owners of a large quantity of capital have certainly suffered more than others; at the same time, there has been a great redistribution of that capital throughout the country. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will find the principle of limited liability so successful as he expects, because I do not know that the profits of Companies always come to the shareholders. I think that, in many cases, it is the managers and others connected with Companies who get most of the profits. The right hon. Gentleman 1476 has struck a right chord when he speaks of the enormous evasion there is of taxation. It is in the methods of assessment, and in other matters obviating evasion, that I think there is a great deal to be done. Then, Sir, in regard to the Stamp reform, I think the right hon. Gentleman struck upon the right key; and I would point out that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) said that the estimated yield from the Stamp Duty was not sanguine enough. But, for the last three years, the result of the Stamp Duty has not been such as to create any great hopes in that direction. If we could find means of preventing evasion, I think the result might be better. I only regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not refer more to the reduction of Expenditure; but I hope that as the present Government feels its way, and feels confident of many years of power, it will effect that reduction of Expenditure which I understand is one of the main objects. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby spoke of foolish extravagance, and longed for the time when the country would come back to the rule of common sense. But he also let slip a remark that a great deal of the Expenditure began so recently as 1881, and we know what Government was in power at that time, and what Government, therefore—in the words of the right hon. Gentleman—was guilty of foolish extravagance, and what Government departed from the rule of common sense. I also desire to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that you cannot judge of the Expenditure by the absolute amounts. It must be taken relatively to the population and the needs of the country. It is a curious fact that the expenditure per head of the population is, I believe, the same to 1d. in this year as it was in the year 1861—namely, £2 9s. 11d. In respect to the expenditure on Naval and Military affairs, we must remember that our responsibilities have enormously increased, especially in regard to the over-sea trade. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a Statement which I am sure will be very gratifying and satisfactory to the country. To take off 1d. of the Income Tax is a great triumph for any Chancellor of the Exchequer. The far- 1477 mers will readily approve of his measure for modifying the Income Tax on their behalf. I could have wished the right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with the Tobacco Duty, had provided some definite scheme for allowing the Excise Duty on tobacco to be levied so that agriculturists, if they thought they could with advantage, might attempt to grow tobacco. But, Sir, I think the country will be satisfied, and more than satisfied, with the Statement which we have just heard. Many salutary reforms have been suggested; the Estimates are of a sober and safe character; but, above all, I am sure the country will see in this Statement a proof that it may thoroughly trust the capacity of the present Administration in all financial matters.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
I hope the Committee will allow me to make a few observations on the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman. His Statement has been criticized by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt); but I do not think that his criticism will commend itself to the judgment of the country when the whole case is laid before the constituencies. I think this Budget must be described as one that, as much as any Budget in recent times, does justice to all classes of the community, and especially to those classes which are now suffering from the depression in trade and agriculture which afflicts all parts of the country. There is relief to be given to the payers of Income Tax; there is also some relief to the tenant farmers; and there is also that which every Member on this side of the House desires to afford—some protection for the working classes against the adulteration of what, to them, have been undoubtedly some of their most ordinary articles of consumption. It has been clearly proved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the working classes are injured by the adulteration of beer and tobacco; and I feel certain that when the proposals of the Government are known, it will be seen that the Government has been fully alive to the interests of the working classes in the country. But the reason why I rise is to call the attention of the Committee to the prominence given in the Statement of the right hon. Gentleman to local loans and the local Budgets of our towns. The question of local indebtedness has gradually 1478 forced itself upon the public attention; 20 years ago the subject received no attention whatever; but it is now becoming one of importance, and I am rejoiced to find that it occupies a commanding position in the Statement of the right hon. Gentleman. It has always appeared to me that local loans were as much a part of the indebtedness of the country as any of the obligations sanctioned by this House. There has been a tendency to increase the debts; and, although many local debts have been prudently incurred for purposes which are beneficial, still precautions ought to be taken with regard to the powers given to Local Authorities for the incurring of those debts. There is a just tendency in some respects among the residents in all localities to feel a pride in their own district, and perhaps to form an exaggerated idea of their importance. They look forward to the growth of population, which I am afraid, in many cases, experience will not justify. These debts are incurred for works the duration of which is often shorter than the time in which payment has to be made, and the result is that they become obsolete before the debt is paid off. Unless care is taken with reference to the powers given to Local Authorities to borrow money, I fear there will be other cases in which the money lent will be entirely lost. I do not wish to mention places by name, because the mention might give pain and prove injurious to the prosperity of the localities. My attention has been drawn to the subject, because I have the honour this year of serving on the Police and Sanitary Committee. It is our duty to examine all Bills laid upon the Table of the House for improvement of localities, and the short experience I have gained this year, in addition to what I formerly had, has confirmed me in the opinion that great care should be exercised in giving power to Local Authorities to incur debts, and that there should be supervision over the action of the Authorities in exercising the powers conferred upon them. I venture to say that if hon. Members will compare the Bills laid before our Committee with those laid before the House of Commons, as the result of our deliberations, they will find that the whole question of local indebtedness should be brought before the House, and it is on that ground that I rejoice to find that the Chancellor of the Exche- 1479 quer baa adopted the course he has indicated with regard to local loans. I do not mean to say that there are many cases where these debts are not most wisely incurred. It would be entirely impossible for our great towns, such as Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, and Bradford, to supply water, gas, and the other necessities of life to their vast populations without borrowing. Their borrowing powers have been exercised by these great towns with wisdom and prudence; and we have several proofs of the justice of what I venture to submit in the market prices of their securities. I beg to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the action he has taken in giving prominence to the question of local loans, and drawing attention to the subject; and I venture to say that the result of this discussion, and of the Bill which will be laid before Parliament, will be that the eye of the country will be brought to bear upon these local debts in a way which I believe will tend to future benefit. I am sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here at the moment. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned £4,000,000 as the amount of loss on these loans, and I hope he will be able to place on the Table of the House a list of those losses, and the reason why they have been incurred. Such a document would be of interest as a record, and also as a warning to Local Authorities as to how their borrowing powers should be exercised. There is one more remark I wish to make, and that is with reference to the payment to the Local Authorities of the proceeds of the Carriage Duties in aid of the rates. I am connected with the County Authorities in the West Hiding of Yorkshire, in which, as hon. Gentlemen are aware, there are densely populated urban as well as rural districts. The country district is largely taxed in order to pay for the roads in towns; but the operation of this reform will be that the contribution will be made out of the Consolidated Fund of the country, to which all contribute, and that the inequality which is now so severely felt will no longer exist. I have one other remark to make, and that is with reference to the suspension or modification of the Sinking Fund. I believe myself that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman will not tend in any degree to destroy that Fund, but that, on the contrary, it 1480 will have additional firmness and efficiency. This is a time of exceptional character in our finance. We have a high rate of Income Tax; we have a large Expenditure; and we have, at the same time, a condition of unexampled depression. I am one of those who desire to see the continuance of the Sinking Fund for many years to come; and I believe that the way to secure that continuance is by modifying it in a time of pressure, the like of which, I believe, has not been known within the recent history of the country. I believe that, if you continue the Sinking Fund on its present scale during such a period, there will be a reaction of public feeling against the Fund which will weaken, and, perhaps, destroy it. On the contrary, by reducing the pressure at this exceptional period, I believe there will be a feeling in favour of the Fund which will lead to its having a permanent place in our financial arrangements, and that by its means, before long, a great impression will be made on the enormous Debt of the country. It is not a small matter, I think, in such times as these, that we should he paying off Debts to the extent of £5,000,000 a-year; and the opinions given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer are of such a character as to show that, if we persevere during the next quarter or half of the century in maintaining the Sinking Fund at the level which he suggests, there will be a great reduction in the National Debt, and we shall no longer stand before the world with a burden upon us which, in time of difficulty with other Powers, may be a great impediment to our progress, and greatly weaken our influence and authority amongst the nations of the world. I have no further observations to make with respect to the Financial Statement of the Government, except to repeat the expression of my opinion that the action which the right hon. Gentleman has taken will tend to check the increase of local indebtedness, and thus render a valuable service to the country.
§ MR. MONTAGU (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)
Sir, I would urge upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer the necessity of dealing with the gold coinage, which is admitted on all sides to be in a most unsatisfactory state. It is estimated that out of the£100,000,000 of gold in circulation in this country, at least £50,000,000 ought not to circulate 1481 at all, owing to the worn condition of the coins, which, according to the existing law, should be withdrawn from circulation, an operation that would inflict a loss of £150,000 on the last holders. The consequence of this condition of the coinage is that £10,000,000 sterling are lying idle in the hands of people in excess of their current requirements. This information is the result of an inquiry instituted two or throe years ago by Mr. Martin, who sent circulars to bankers, asking what amount of gold they held in excess of current requirements. The highest figures came from Ireland, which is especially afflicted with light gold. There are several causes of the present condition of the gold coinage. There is the softness of the metal, to which I referred last year. Every important country but England uses a more durable form of gold—that is to say, 9–10ths fine, instead of our ll–12ths. The only country which used our standard—Russia—has abandoned it, and has adopted that of 9–10ths fine. I may mention that, under the late Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised to do what he could to restore the gold currency, and I should hope that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer would move in the same direction. When the restoration is effected, I believe that a good portion of the £10,000,000 I have referred to would find its way into the Bank of England, and that institution would be then able to discount at such a rate as would afford the necessary encouragement to our slightly reviving trade. Experiments have proved that coins of the standard of 9–10ths fine are much more durable than those of our standard of ll–12ths. The Master of the Mint expressed a hope, some time since, that he would be able to render the coinage more durable by coining under great pressure; but I have not heard what was the result of his endeavours, and I believe that the fact remains that our gold coins wear away to a greater extent than those of any other country. I believe the only use of 22-carat gold is to make wedding rings; but I believe that married women will tell us that those rings wear away quickly by reason of their being made of soft metal. Another cause of wear is the milled edge of the sovereign, which acts not only as a file upon the coins with 1482 which it comes in contact, but in that way contributes to its own destruction. Then there is the practice of bankers of shovelling up gold with steel-edged scoops, from which, as also from being brought into contact with the harder metal, copper, the coins suffer deterioration. Another, and, as I think, the chief cause of this deterioration, is our absurd system of coining free of charge. The object of that was to throw on the public the loss arising from the wear of the gold; but as that is no longer the practice, I do not see why a small charge should not be exacted. All other countries charge a seigniorage, and I am at a loss to understand why we should not do so also. The Gorman Government have given every facility to their own people; they have introduced the French metrical system of weights and measures. They have imitated us by adopting a gold currency; but they have avoided our errors, and they have a coinage of harder metal, and without a milled edge. They also charge a percentage for seigniorage. The great advantage of charging a seigniorage of 2d. would be that our sovereigns would not be melted down to the extent they are at present. The goldsmiths would prefer to use bar-gold, rather than sovereigns, which cost them at the rate of £3 17s. l0½d. per ounce. Again, it is also known that travellers take many sovereigns out of the country, only the light portion of which is returned, because the sovereigns being worth the current price, they are melted down; and, further, we export large quantities to South America and the East, of which, although many are returned, a great number are recoined by foreign mints, those which are refused being used as a circulating medium at our expense. It is only full-weight sovereigns that are sent abroad, or are melted down; and the consequence is that our coinage continually depreciates, because of the survival not of the fittest, but of the most unfit. It is the heavy coins that are melted down, and the light ones that survive. It is a fact that, owing to our absurd system of gratuitous coinage of gold, that our coins are melted down to a greater extent than those of any other country. In the last report of the United States Mint there is a statement to the effect that over 2,000,000 of our sovereigns have been melted down in the 1483 American Mints alone. I might also say that the United States Mint have a circulation of gold coins which have not lost, by fair wear and tear, more than one-half per cent in 20 years. I think if we were to adopt their system, and change the percentage of gold in our coins, making it 9–10ths fine gold, the coins would wear for 20 years, and by that means, allowing the advantage which we should derive to accumulate at compound interest, we should provide for our gold currency for 40 years. But in order to put our gold coinage into a proper position it would be necessary to incur an expenditure of from £600,000 to £800,000; and I am afraid that, in spite of the appeal of the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt)—although he has advocated some of the matters which I pressed upon him last year—I do not think: the present Chancellor of the Exchequer would like to find that £800,000 out of his surplus. Therefore, I would suggest that the money should be raised in a special way—that is to say, that the Treasury should issue against the Government balances at the Bank of England, £2,000,000 in £l notes. We need not hold any gold against these notes, and they need not be a legal tender; but they could be received for taxes and stamps. They could be made payable at the Bank of England, and if they were not taken into the Bank—and I think they would only be a very few—the Bank could return them to the Mint or the Treasury—I think the Mint would be the best, as being more central. The notes could be accepted like cheques, and could be reissued. Two objections have been made to the issue of £1 notes. One objection is, that the expense would be very great. It has even been said that £1 notes would cost 6d. each; and it is also said that these notes, if largely availed of in this country, would give rise to a considerable amount of forgery. Now, I think I can dispose of these objections very shortly. Almost every country except ours have notes equivalent to £1, and even less. I have made a collection of 46 varieties of these notes, comprising Irish and Scotch, Canadian, Indian, and all well-made foreign notes; I have also read most detailed and reliable information with regard to the issue of these notes; and I may say that all this 1484 information is quite at the disposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I will quote a few extracts from the information I have, which will show how inexpensive and safe is the issue of these £1 notes. In Austria, the small notes cost about 1d. each, and forgery has been very rare. In Belgium, the cost is ½d a-piece, and forgery is quite insignificant. In Canada, the cost is 1d. each, and forgeries have been few; in fact, there has been no difficulty on that score. In Denmark, the cost is ½d. a-piece, and forgeries are rare. In Germany, since the issue of small notes five years ago, there have been no forgeries. In Holland, the cost of the notes is 1¼d., and forgeries are excessively rare. In India, the cost is two-thirds of a 1d., and the loss from forgeries, which are very rare, is infinitesimal. In Ireland, one bank says—"No forgery for the last 20 years." In Norway, the cost is 1d. a-piece, the life of a note is five years, and there have been, no forgeries. In Portugal, there was one attempted forgery eight years ago; but it was easily discovered. In Scotland, the notes cost 1d., the life of the note is four years, and forgeries are rare. In Spain, the cost is 1d. per note, and forgeries are rare. In Switzerland, the notes cost a little more than 1d. each, their life is about eight years, and there are no forgeries. In the United States, the notes cost about ½d., the life of the note is four years, and there are few forgeries. Therefore, taking the average, the cost of £1 notes ought not to exceed 1d., and the life of a note ought to be about five years. What would be the result of the issue of these £1 notes? By the issue of these notes the Mint would receive probably £2,000,000 sterling in gold, of which £800,000 could be devoted to restoring our gold currency and placing it in a proper position, and £1,200,000 could be invested in Consols, which would yield £36,000 a-year. The cost would not amount to more than £2,000 for supplying the place of worn-out notes and for an extra clerk or two to count the numbers. In that way you would have £34,000 left, which would be considerably more than would be necessary to enable you to keep up the gold coinage for all time. I should also like to say a few words about our silver currency, which is in a most wretched condition. 1485 Our silver coins circulate at 50 per cent over their intrinsic value, because we issue the coin at 66d.per ounce, while the market price is from 41¾d. to 44d. I do not think it is fair for a country like this to ask the public to take what is worth intrinsically only about 13s. for £1. Moreover, I would point out that those who are in possession of a largo quantity of silver coins always stand in some danger of loss from fire; because, if a serious fire occurred, although these people might recover the melted mass of silver, they would suffer a loss of about one-third of the value of the coins which would be melted down. Then there is also the certainty that if any action is taken by our Government to bring about an International Convention amongst the Great Powers to fix a ratio between gold and silver, we shall have to recast our entire circulation of silver. I do not recognize, in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, an authority upon bimetallism. His observations upon this matter show that, to some degree, he has got out of his depth; because, if we have a Convention with all the Great Powers to fix the ratio between silver and gold, our gold would not disappear, for there would be no place for it to go to; and I should think that, in spite of what has been said by the Marquess of Salisbury, that it would be unlikely that the Great Powers would consent. All that those who are in favour of bimetallism ask, is that we should make the attempt to bring about such a Convention. We, who favour this system, firmly believe that if a Convention were held, every Great Power would be found willing to join in fixing a ratio; and all we want is, that they should fix three cardinal points—that it should be decided that each Power should be responsible for the coin it issues; that the Mint regulations should be identical with all those Powers; and that there should be an extra seignior age of about 1d.per cent charged on silver. The public would not receive in this country any more silver than they required in the currency; and no one would necessarily know, if this system were carried out, that bimetallism had been adopted. If we do not invite other Powers to join with us, we are likely to be prejudiced by the march of events elsewhere; because I believe that within a very short period—within the next 20 1486 years—we shall find the great bulk of Foreign Powers on the Continent adopting bimetallism. It was only through very exceptional circumstances that that system was altered. There is also this danger, that if silver, through our inaction, should fall to a much lower price than the present, and if our half-crown, which is now worth less than Is. 8d., should fall still further, I do not see what is to prevent imitations of our silver currency being made of good sterling silver. If these imitations were made, I would defy anybody in this House, or perhaps anybody out of it, to be able to detect the imitation coins and separate them from the coins issued by the Mint. Therefore, it is a desirable thing that we should consider, at any rate, the necessity of attending to our silver coin. I do not think I need speak further about silver; but I should like to say a few words now about our bronze currency—our copper. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has rendered it almost unnecessary for me to say much, because he has given effect to the intention of the late Government, at my instance, which was to prohibit the importation of foreign copper coins into this country; but I regret very much that he has imposed such a heavy loss on the working classes in the Regulation which he has just issued. I think there was no necessity for it. There should be a possibility of arranging the matter differently, for the evil is very widespread, owing to the delay which has taken place in adopting measures for dealing with this importation of foreign copper coins. A very large amount of this foreign copper has been circulated in this country in consequence of the neglect on the part of Her Majesty's Government. I mentioned, in a Question which I put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few weeks ago, that 20 per cent of the copper currency in the East of London was composed of foreign copper coin. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to my Question, seemed to throw some doubt on the correctness of these figures. I may tell him that I received that information from two most reliable sources—namely, the Secretary to the Hospital Saturday Fund, and the Secretary to the North London Tramways Company. The Secretary of the Hospital Saturday Fund, informed me that he received 1487 £2,000 in copper, of which £400 was in foreign coin, and the Secretary of the North London Tramways Company has informed me that the Company receives £400 a-week in copper, of which £80 is in foreign coin. That was just the 20 per cent to which I alluded in my Question. from these two sources of information we get identical results; therefore we may take it for granted, I think, that my estimate is right—namely, that 20 per cent of the copper currency in the East of London is in foreign coin. To my mind, the best mode of dealing with that state of things would be this. It is not so much the loss that is caused by calling in the coins at 13 pence for the Is., but it is that a great deal of our own copper coins could be circulated in the room of those foreign coins, and that it would be to the advantage of the State to increase such currency, because it yields a very large profit. I should think that during the past 20 years £1,750,000 in copper coins have been issued from the Mint. If 20 per cent of that copper currency is foreign, and we supply the place of that foreign coin by copper, turned out of our own Mint, the gain to the State will be £30,000. I think that if steps are not taken to absolutely prohibit the circulation of these coins, that this scare will pass over and foreign copper will still be received and circulated as before. I would suggest that the Mint should be empowered to exchange English copper coins for French copper to the amount of £5 at a discount of 5 per cent. The loss then would be very small, and in that way, in the course of a short time, our copper coin would take the place of foreign coin. And there would be a much better plan than that. If the Government were to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the subject of our currency, I am quite sure that they would find a sufficient number of bankers and merchants in the House who would interest themselves in the matter, and would give a very prompt decision upon it. To that Select Committee could be referred the question of decimal coinage, and the question of protecting our currency altogether. Perhaps, the Committee will be surprised to hear that there is not a single foreign country existing which has not a decimal coinage. We are left completely high and dry on this matter, and most of our 1488 Colonies with us. Some of our Colonies, such as Canada and Ceylon, have a decimal coinage; but this country remains in the singular position of not having introduced a system which prevails almost universally. This is not a new question; it was agitated over 20 years ago, and I took part in the agitation at that time.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member; but I must point out to him that he is now travelling altogether wide of the subject before the Committee in entering into the question of the decimal coinage.
§ MR. S. MONTAGU
I bow to your ruling, Sir; I will therefore only urge upon the Government the desirability of appointing a Select Committee to consider this question, and to endeavour to procure as perfect a currency as any other country existing; and I think the result of the appointment of such a Committee would be to facilitate commerce. As we are gradually losing our pre-eminence in commerce, I think it would be a desirable thing to encourage a sounder system through the Report of such a Select Committee, which would, I think, be favourable to a restored gold and silver currency.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Montague) has occupied a considerable portion of the valuable time of the Committee in discussing measures, which, though important in themselves, are not germane to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer; therefore, he will not think I am guilty of any want of respect if I do not follow him into those elaborate calculations as to the gold and silver and copper coinage of the country, which he has thought proper to make this evening. I would merely state this—that in common with the right hon. Gentleman opposite the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. [Laughter,] No, no, I mean the late Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer, I deeply regret that the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has not found himself in a position to make some proposal to us with regard to the very dangerous quantity of light gold in the British currency. The matter has now reached such a pitch that I think delay in dealing with it will be positively 1489 dangerous. I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have found himself in a position to make some proposal on the question. It is a matter that was carefully examined whilst I was at the Treasury, with the help of the officials; and I made certain that he would have found projects practically brought to a conclusion—that he would have found proposals drawn up in a definite form, and that he would have been able to bring them before the House. On that point, I may say that there are only two modes of dealing with our light gold currency in this country. There are only two ways in which you can deal with the light gold currency without putting an undue burden either upon the public generally, or penalizing the last holder. In the first place, we might abolish half-sovereigns, and re-place them by silver, the profit upon which would enable us to meet the deficiency caused by the light gold coinage. A far better way, however, would be by re-arranging the note issue by the Bank of England. The issue of notes by the Bank of England though, perhaps, a very safe one, is highly extravagant, and I think it would be possible, without running undue risk, to reduce the cost of the issue of these notes in such a way as to leave you a considerable balance—a balance which being funded would altogether meet the loss you might suffer by calling in the light gold. These are the only two methods by which you can call in the light gold coinage without throwing a burden upon the taxpayers, and without penalizing the last holder. I will, however, only reiterate my regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not been able to deal with this subject. I turn now to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. If I were to say what the impression left upon my mind after listening to the most interesting, most learned, and most exhaustive statement of the right hon. Gentleman is, I should say how great is the worldly worth of a reputation. I am perfectly certain if I had made a proposal of that kind—if I had had the misfortune to occupy the position he occupies, and had made such a proposal as that with which he has favoured us, I should have raised the indignation of every person in the country who considered himself sound and orthodox in 1490 all the doctrines of finance, and that such an amount of agitation would have been excited by learned persons, that the proposals I made would, in all probability, have been rejected by the House of Commons. I do not wish the Committee to understand, for one moment, that I am arguing that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer are in themselves bad, I am sure they are good; but I am only saying that they are not proposals which would have been accepted from me, and for several reasons which I will endeavour to show. But before I examine these proposals, I may allude to a remark which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer made with regard to the Surplus of Revenue over Expenditure in the last year's accounts and the Surplus of Revenue over Expenditure as estimated in this year's accounts. As the Surplus of Revenue over Expenditure in this year's accounts, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was good enough to contribute some credit to myself; but I cannot accept that credit from him; because I consider that the whole Surplus of Revenue over Expenditure in this year's accounts is entirely due to his own action with regard to the claim of the Egyptian Government against this Government in respect of the expenses connected with the defence of the Egyptian Frontier. The right hon. Gentleman was able, practically, to save this country some £500,000 by the attitude he took up as to these claims, and that £500,000 absorbs nearly the whole £700,000 which is the whole of the Surplus of Revenue over Expenditure in this year's accounts. Therefore, I must attribute to him all the credit for this saving, and as a member of the taxpaying public I congratulate him upon having been able to overcome the prejudices of the Foreign Office, which I found absolutely insuperable upon that point. I now turn to the Estimate of the Surplus of Revenue over Expenditure for the coming year, which is something like £700,000 as the right hon. Gentleman has stated it. That, I think, is greatly duo to the reductions which we made in the Estimates of the Navy Expenditure before I loft the Government, and in those of the Army Expenditure since I left the Government. A sum of £180,000 is charged 1491 off the Army Expenditure since I left the Government, and £500,000 were charged off the Navy Estimates before I left the Government, which almost exactly accounts for the Surplus of Revenue over Expenditure as estimated for the coming year. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer desires to repeat the compliment he paid me with regard to the amount of reduction effected in the Expenditure before I left the Government. I shall not repudiate the compliment as I did the other to which I referred, to which I did not consider myself entitled. With regard to the Estimate for the coming year, there is one point which strikes me as remarkable, and upon which I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for some future information. The right hon. Gentleman took the Customs for the coming year at £20,200,000, which is an increase of £45,000 on the past year. The increase under that head on the Estimate in the past year amounted to something like £250,000; and I do not understand why the Customs should be estimated this year to produce so small an increase as £45,000. I thought that, as far as foreign spirits were concerned, it was a rising revenue. I should be surprised to think that the right hon. Gentleman has underestimated the Customs to a considerable extent. That is not an important matter;, but I now come to the question of the Excise. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimates the Excise revenue at £29,292,000, which is an increase of £40,000 over last year. I do not know where he hopes to got it. The Excise last year fell off by over £400,000, and fell off the year before over £300,000. The Excise revenue is largely and steadily decreasing; and I do not know to what cause to attribute it. Personally, I believe it to be due to the cause of temperance.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I do not wish to interrupt the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington; but I desire to say that the estimated increase under the head of Excise is entirely due to an estimated increase in the consumption of beer.
LORD RANDOLPH CHUCHILL
I heard that, and I was going to allude to it. It is quite true that the right 1492 hon. Gentleman expects to got £130,000, owing to a certain action which is about to be taken with regard to the adulteration of beer; but I want to point out that the Excise last year lost £400,000, and that this year it has lost an almost equal amount of money. That is a very large decrease, and this £130,000 increase which he anticipates does not seem to me to be justified. I wish to know upon what the right hon. Gentleman relies to justify the anticipated increase in the Revenue under the head of Excise. I only allude to this point for the purpose of getting information, and not for the purpose of throwing doubt upon the Estimate of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Generally speaking, I believe I am right in saying that Chancellors of the Exchequer are very apt to put an immense pressure upon the permanent officials to crack up their Estimates. I know that these officials feel that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his great anxiety to show a satisfactory balance, puts on them greater responsibility than they ought to bear, and is very much indisposed to accept from those officials their view of the Estimates of Revenue which they think suitable to the occasion. The general effect of the pressure put upon the officials is to induce them to add a little to their Estimate, so as to produce a result which is very often not realized. I do not believe for a moment that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken that course; but it is one of which I think Parliament ought to be reminded, and against which Chancellors of the Exchequer ought to bring their influence to bear. I now come to a matter which interests me more than anything else at this moment, but which, unfortunately, I am not able to take as strong a line of action with regard to as I should like, on account of the very grave political issues that are before Parliament and the country. Any strong action upon the points to which I refer might possibly interfere with those vital issues. It was with the utmost regret that, after listening to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer tonight for nearly three hours, that I came to the conclusion that he has not said one word on the subject of economy and retrenchment. I can- 1493 not say how much I regret that. I may say that never did a Chancellor of the Exchequer more capable, more qualified, or possessing more power to deal with such a question, join any Government with a more justly earned and overwhelming financial reputation, and the right hon. Gentleman had only to say—"sic volo, sic jubeo," for Her Majesty's Government could not afford to quarrel with another Chancellor of the Exchequer. But what, in point of fact, is the real state of the case? The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of the Financial Statement he has just made to the House, seemed to review with much greater care the Civil Service Estimates than those of the Army and Navy; and he seemed also to suggest that a reduction might be made in that quarter much more effectually than in the case of the Army and Navy. Now, Sir, I entirely disagree with that view. I believe there are reductions that could possibly be effected in the Civil Service; but I should not put the amount of that reduction at more than £100,000. I am afraid that, in what I am about to say, I may give offence to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Mundella); but I am, at the same time, bound to say that I look with great suspicion on the Education Vote. And why? The reason is this—the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes down to this House year after year and deplores the increase of expenditure on first one subject and then another; but he invariably congratulates the House and the country on the increase that has taken place in the Education Vote. Now, Sir, I think there is a great danger in this. The mere fact that the House and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are always disposed to take what I may call a gushing position over any increase in the expenditure on Education is, I hold, an encouragement to that Department not to exercise so rigid an economy as would otherwise be the case. All I want upon this, as well as on other matters, is that the country should get full value for the amount it is called upon to pay; and I now propose to tell the House of one Department which requires to be overhauled, because it is spending a good deal too much money, without affording any adequate return in the shape of value—and that is the Depart- 1494 ment of Science and Art. I now come to speak of the Army and Navy; and with regard to those Services, I regret to say that the view I took of the expenditure to be made upon them is not that which has been adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What I found was this—that between the years 1883 and 1885, there had been a total gross increase in the average annual expenditure on the Army and Navy of no less than £6,000,000 sterling. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer never alluded to the growth of this increase; all he referred to was that increase in Army and Navy Expenditure, which was due to what he called the "naval scare" of 1884; but I assert that the increase duo to that scare does not account for the large annual increase of £6,000,000, nor for one half of it. The fact is, that the naval scare accounted for an increase last year, and this year, of about £2,700,000—you cannot put it higher than that—leaving as much as £3,000,000 unaccounted for. This, Sir, is a point to which I desire to direct attention. I should like to know what are the circumstances—domestic or foreign—which have caused an increase in the cost of the Army and Navy since the year 1883 to the extent of £3,000,000 of money? That is a matter on which I should live to have the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is of no use for the right hon. Gentleman to lecture the House about the expenditure on the Civil Service Department, and on the tendency of hon. Members to make proposals, the effect of which will be to increase in various ways the cost of the Public Service. What he has to do is this—if he believes an increase to be necessary in a great Public Department, he ought to place that on the taxes of the country. If the right hon. Gentleman does that, and convinces the country that it is necessary, and the taxes are raised for the purpose, then the great body of the taxpayers will begin to feel the pinch, and will put pressure on their Representatives that they may endeavour to obtain a reduction of expenditure; and the moment they begin to feel and to assert the necessity of being economic, Parliament will cease making proposals to the Chancellor of the Exchequer whereby the ex- 1495 penditure is increased. But so long as the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not put this extra expenditure on the taxation of the country, but contrives, by one financial method or another, to conceal it from the country, so long will he be enabled to accuse Parliament of increasing the cost of the Public Service. It is from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the reduction must really come. That is the only way in which we can make sure of obtaining retrenchment. But we are told that economy is very unpopular—that the people of this country like to know they have a strong Army and a large Navy, with all the requisite coaling stations and fortifications. If this be said, all I say is, test it. Place the cost of these things on the taxation of the country. There is, as I have explained, a large gross annual increase in the expenditure for the Army and Navy. Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer placed that upon the taxes? No; he has not. What he has done is this—he has manufactured a surplus by reducing the repayment of the capital of the National Debt. I, for one, do not believe that his proposals will do much good. Indeed, I do not believe it is his Budget; nothing will induce me to believe it. It is a Budget that has been made for him, partly by general political circumstances and partly by the persuasions—I will not call them the prejudices—of the Colleagues with whom he has to deal. In not having placed the cost of the increase in our armaments on the general taxes of the country, I say the right hon. Gentleman has done an injury to the cause of economy and retrenchment. The right hon. Gentleman has, as I have stated, dealt with the National Debt; and upon that subject what I have to say is this—I believe that large operations are not only possible, but desirable, with regard to our arrangements for the repayment of the National Debt; but I wish also to point out that the £6,000,000 which are annually devoted to the repayment of that Debt constitute a tremendous financial reserve, and may be said to be a powerful weapon which every Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to guard, as if it were the apple of his eye, in order that it may only be resorted to in real cases of emergency. What I protest against is the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman to take the £2,000,000 he has fixed 1496 upon from the repayment of the National Debt, and applying the amount so taken in order to meet the increased expenditure on armaments, which, supposing them to be justified or desired by the country, ought to have been placed on the taxes of the country. This, Sir, is a point on which I feel most strongly. To me it seems that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had three possible Budgets before him. In the first place, he might have left matters exactly where they were, in which case he would have had a surplus of £900,000—a surplus by no means too large for the Public Service of the country—or he might, in the next place, have suspended the little Sinking Fund of £800,000, in which case he would have been left with a surplus of £1,700,000; and with a little alteration in the taxes he would have had a surplus of £1,800,000 or £1,900,000, and then, with the aid of that, he could have taken Id. off the Income Tax. But the Budget the right hon. Gentleman has selected—and here I venture to tell him what is my firm opinion—is a most unfortunate one. Really, if I were to choose between the two—and I am sure that no one will suspect me of admiration, political or otherwise, for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt)—I must say that I should greatly prefer the right hon. Gentleman's Budget of last year to the Budget that has been brought forward by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. I regret—more than I can express—that the great principle of the repayment of the National Debt has been interfered with for so light, so trivial, and so unsound a cause. I regret that a great weapon has been tampered with, blunted, and spoiled for future use in a period of emergency. I do not know whether it would be possible for the right hon. Gentleman at the present moment to reconsider his Budget; but whether that be so or not, I am quite certain of this—that he has put out of court all the financial principles in which he has been trained, which he has heretofore proclaimed, and which he hoped, when he acceded to Office, he would be able to impress upon Parliament and the country. There is one more point on which I ought to make a remark. I protest very strongly against any further relief, such as is now 1497 proposed in the shape of dole and contribution on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, towards the local rates. I consider that that principle of contribution to the local rates in the form in which it is at present carried out to be destructive of economy in every shape. And besides that, it is very objectionable from another point of view. There is at the present moment a strong Party in the country, by no means confined to this side of the House, who are, if not averse to, at any rate not very anxious for, a large reform of local government. Their reluctance on that point I can understand; but it is a reluctance which must be got over. This question will have to be dealt with, and a large and genuinely-popular system of local government must be made to take the place of that which now exists. The only hope on the part of the Government and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to overcome the reluctance which, as I have said, exists so strongly in regard to this matter among certain classes in the country. The right hon. Gentleman has, I think, materially weakened the position the Government occupy directly by giving the proposed dole of 1250,000, and indirectly because the class to which I have referred will be thereby encouraged in their resistance to local government reform. They will say—"If you will only put it off; if you will stubbornly oppose all reforms of local government, year after year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be obliged to give us something more from the Imperial funds. "I hold that the large contribution proposed to be made in aid of the local rates is not only most unfortunate, from an economical point of view, but has also added to the great difficulties the Government must necessarily have to encounter in dealing with the question of the reform of local government in this country. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will believe that in making these remarks I have been actuated by no feeling of hostility or animosity towards him or the Government. What I say is, that I consider finance as a question which ought to be removed above all mere matters of a Party kind. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will receive from hon. Members who represent the counties, and from the right 1498 hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), the most profuse thanks for the proposal he has made. Hut, at the same time, I cannot but think that these are not the only quarters to which the right hon. Gentleman ought to look for applause in financial matters. I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have preferred to have taught a better lesson in finance to the Party he has so gallantly and so disinterestedly come forward to aid than that which he has put before them this evening. I will not, on this occasion, trust myself to say more. I do not desire to be dragged into a position of acute animosity or hostility to the Government; but I must own that I was so much disappointed with the Financial Statement of the right hon. Gentleman that I could not refrain from expressing to the House the view I entertain that the cause of economy has not been strengthened, but rather that the cause of retrenchment has been put back by the financial policy which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just announced.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
The Committee has enjoyed the exceptional advantage during this discussion of the presence of no fewer than four Gentlemen, each of whom has been, or is at the present moment, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Three of those Gentlemen have addressed the Committee on this occasion, and it is only natural that they should entertain considerable differences of opinion. The noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) who has just spoken, and who has told us he has been actuated by no feeling of hostility to the Government or my right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen), has addressed to the Committee a speech which has evoked the plaudits of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Whatever his desire, the noble Lord has certainly succeeded in criticizing the proposals of my right hon. Friend with great severity; but, so far as my humble and uninstructed judgment enables me to see, I believe that the Budget proposals that have been put forward by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer this evening are such as well be found fairly acceptable and popular—both in this House and in the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) has ques- 1499 tioned the fact of the existing depression throughout the country, and has spoken of it as an assumed or assorted depression. I cannot say anything with regard to what may be the case in commercial circles; but, with regard to the condition of agriculture, I am in a position to speak positively, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he believes the existing agricultural depression to be either assumed or asserted, he is labouring under a complete delusion. There is no question at all about it. At the present moment, agricultural depression is a very real, a very palpable, and a very lamentable fact, and is producing great loss and suffering among the classes who are directly concerned.. It was for this reason that I heard with great pleasure and satisfaction the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night, because it gives evidence of a friendly recognition of the extreme difficulty of the situation in which those classes are placed who are suffering from this depression at the present time. The proposal of my right hon. Friend with regard to the payment of Income Tax by the tenant farmers is, I think, a very desirable and very useful one, and will be regarded by the farmers of the country as a been for which they will be grateful. For some years past—and particularly during the last year—the profits of the farmers have amounted to nothing at all. I venture to differ from my noble Friend in regard to the contribution the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to give in aid of the local rates. The tendency of the noble Lord's remarks has been, I think, to convey an impression which I do not think exists in the mind of the noble Lord, that he is altogether wanting in that sympathy for the agricultural interest which has been so much manifested by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night. With regard to the objection put forward by the noble Lord as to this proposal impeding in any way the local government reforms contemplated by Her Majesty's Government, I must say that I do not think there was much force in that objection. After all, what is the amount of relief it is proposed to concede? Speaking as a Representative of the agricultural interest, I may say that, although the amount of that relief is of no value in itself, I value it for this rea- 1500 son—that it is evidence of the good intentions of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of the Government which he represents. I deny that the effect of this contribution on the part of the right hon. Gentleman will be likely, as the noble Lord has stated, seriously to impede or interfere with the great reform in local government, which I believe to be so much desired both by Her Majesty's Government and by the country at large. Sir, I wish to refer to one other matter which was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Currency Commission and to the question of bimetallism, and he spoke in somewhat strong terms. I never had the slightest suspicion until to-night that the right hon. Gentleman was what would be termed in America such an out-and-out gold bug as he is. After the observations he has addressed to the Committee, I have no doubt upon that head. I do not wish, on this occasion, to enter into any of the details of the most complicated and intricate question of bimetallism; but I do desire to say this—that when the right hon. Gentleman speaks, as he did speak to-night, of other countries in Europe, and I think also of the United States—
SIR WILLIAM HAECOUET (Derby)
I did not mention the United States.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Anyhow, he spoke of Germany and France, and he pronounced the opinion that both of those countries were absolutely opposed to any change in the direction of bimetallism. I do not care to express a positive opinion; but I think it is very probable, indeed, that in making that assertion the right hon. Gentleman was quite as much mistaken as he is very often on other matters. Sir, I have only to say further, that after criticizing, as I say with great severity, the actual Budget laid before the House, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) spoke of three Budgets, any one of which, might have been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I can only regret that, with all the advantages he had, and with all the opportunities he had before him, the noble Lord did not think it right to introduce a Budget of his own. If he had done that, he would have had an 1501 opportunity of correcting all the great errors of which he complains, and of submitting to the House a project and policy he evidently approves of so much, and which, according to his view, would have conferred so much benefit upon the country. Before I conclude, I desire, in spite of the sneers which were directed at me by those who represent the agricultural interest, to tender, on behalf of that interest, my cordial and grateful acknowledgments to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the proposals he has made and for the sympathy he has shown towards that interest, which I believe is, at the present time, more suffering than any other interest in the country.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
Mr. Courtney, I congratulate hon. Gentlemen opposite in having two distinct financial policies, advocated by two prominent Leaders of their Party. Whatever views hon. Gentleman opposite may take of this Budget, or of finance generally, they will have no severance of Party ties in expressing their views. But the real difference of opinion between the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), may be summed up in one sentence. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer recognizes, that in the present state of depression of agriculture and of commerce, and in face of the present want of elasticity in the ordinary Revenue, he is not justified in imposing an 8d. Income Tax. The noble Lord is clearly of the same opinion; but he thinks that the difference between a 7d. and an 8d. Income Tax should be met by a reduction in Expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks the difference should be provided for by ceasing to pay off the National Debt. Now, I very cordially sympathize with the view of the noble Lord. I believe that the crux of this question—we may go round and round the question as much as we like—but the real crux of this question is in the National Expenditure. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not put the case at all too strongly, when he pointed out the very unsatisfactory 1502 state of the ordinary Revenue. The Economist showed, last week, that in the two periods of five years, from 1877 to 1882 and from 1882 to 1887, there was not a difference of £50,000 in the Revenue from Customs and Excise. This practically shows that the Customs and Excise are a decreasing source of Revenue, and that extra expenditure, whatever it may be, that this House determines to indulge in, has been found, and will have to be found by means of the Income Tax. I am going to trouble the Committee with two or three figures. I do apologize for doing so, because I think the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington has opened up the question; and it is a question upon which we must continue to discuss, till we make some impression upon the minds of the public—I mean the question of the Army and Navy Expenditure We get very much confused by mixing up extraordinary Expenditure, Votes of Credit, and other War Expenditure from time to time, without watching as the noble Lord has done the regular increase of the normal Peace Expenditure. Now I got a Return laid before the House last year which actually shows the normal Naval and Military Expenditure for the last 10 years. If the House will bear with me I should like to give in round figures what the Expenditure has been. In 1876 it was £24,800,000; in 1877, £25,400,000; in 1878, £25,000,000; in 1879, £25,700.000; in 1880, £25,200,000; in 1881, £24,600,000; in 1882, £25,000,000; in 1883, £25,300,000; in 1884, £26,400,000; in 1885, £26,600,000; and, for the first time, I suppose, in the history of this country, in a time of peace, in 1886 it reached £."0,120,000; and, according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the expenditure upon the Army and Navy Services during the last year (1887) was about £31,000,000; and the Estimate of the expenditure in the forthcoming year is again £31,000,000. So practically what we have got, as the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington very correctly stated, is a normal increase of expenditure of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, and that totally irrespective of extra expenditure. Well, now, it is not only the amount of this expenditure, but the nature of the 1503 items of which it is made up, that objection is taken. We know what the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) will say. They will say this expenditure is absolutely necessary in order that the country may be in a proper state of defence. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer that. I have no doubt that if the expenditure were £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 hon. Gentlemen would cheer. But one point I wish to bring before the Committee is this—not only is this expenditure steadily increasing, but we are not getting money's worth for our money. We are paying 30s. in the pound. We have a large amount of useless expenditure. Take one point alone—the Non-Effective Services. I shall be very surprised if before long the public does not take a serious and perhaps unpleasant view of the expenditure on this particular head. The expenditure on the Non-Effective Services of the Army has reached £3,500,000, that on the Non-Effective Services of the Navy has reached £1,750,000, and that on the Non-Effective Civil Services has reached £1,500,000. We are practically paying £6,750,000 a-year in pensions, and of that sum more than £5,000,000 is paid out of the £30,000,000 spent on the Army and Navy. I am not going to say that men who have spent their lives in the service of the Crown, either in the Navy or Army, should not be properly pensioned; but I maintain that you are establishing and carrying out a system now whereby you are pensioning a large number of men under 50 years of age. A Return was placed on the Table of the House the other day of the total cost of pensions for officers in the Army alone. In 1855 it was £504,000; in 1870, £567,000; in 1880, £1,110,000; in 1885, £1,300,000. We have had a succession of Royal Warrants. I tried the other day to extract from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War what was the financial effect of the last Royal Warrant with reference to Army promotion. I asked him to lay a Paper on the Table showing what the result would be. He has not done so, and I have very little doubt that there is practically no financial saving effected by that operation. The House and the 1504 country ought to understand what they are getting for their money—what it has cost to create this flow of promotion. What would be said if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were to come down to the House and say—"There are a number of distinguished Gentlemen at the Bar who are in possession of all the patronage and income of the Bar. Seeing there is a large number of Gentlemen behind them who wish to step into the shoes of these distinguished gentlemen, it is most desirable the latter should be pensioned off in order to create a flow of promotion in the Legal Profession?" We have heard complaints over and over again that men in the Army are set aside at the very time of life when they have the greatest experience. There is no such military Non-Effective Service in the world as ours. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington has alluded to the Royal Commission which is sitting on Expenditure. I think the country is greatly indebted to him for issuing the Commission; but I deplore the terms in which the reference to the Commission was couched. The Commission will be absolutely powerless to deal with the real spending Departments of the Army and Navy. It may effect reductions in the clerks at the War Office and the Admiralty; but it cannot deal with the really large expenditure, the expenditure of administration. I draw a distinction between policy and administration. Policy is a question for the responsible Government of the day. It is their business to say whether there should be an army of 150,000 men or of 130,000 men. But what I should like the Commission to inquire into is, whether the Army, whatever it is, is costing more than it ought to cost. I am a Member of the Commission, and I was astonished to learn that the medical staff of our Army in time of peace is costing nearly £350,000 per annum. I wished to inquire into this expenditure, but I was entirely precluded from doing so by the terms of the Reference. If the Royal Commission had been able to go into such points as this, it would have shown that our Army is the most expensive army in the world, though we have comparatively few men. So much for that branch of the question. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the 1505 Civil Service is exceedingly well managed, and I think it cannot be carried on at much less cost. I differ from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington so far as the expenditure on Education is concerned. I am delighted to see it increased, though I share his view as to whether we are getting the money's worth in the case of all the items. At the same time, we must rejoice in the fact that our net expenditure for Education is steadily increasing, and that the expenditure for our Civil Administration is stationary. The real increase is in the Army and Navy, and also in those grants in aid of local taxation as to which I desire to say a word or two directly. I should like to allude to one or two proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I quite approve of the alteration he proposes to make with reference to increasing the duty upon the transfer of the Railway Debenture Stock; but I would ask him whether he does not think there is a very largo amount of property, dealt with on the Stock Exchange, which never pays any duty at all; whether it would not be possible to make time bargains, contracts for stocks which are never delivered, but which are re-sold on and on—a source of an effective contribution to the Revenue. "With reference to the initial duty of 1s. per £100, I doubt whether the great Companies will consent to the change proposed. I understand the change to be entirely optional; that if the Companies do not choose to avail themselves of it the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take no action. But there are two main features of the Budget. By the local Budget the money of the Public Works Loan Commission is dealt with, and I regret that the country is to sustain a loss by what is proposed.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there would be an apparent loss of £300,000; that instead of receiving £900,000 and paying away £600,000—
There is an apparent loss. The matter is rather complicated; but I assure the right hon. Gentleman we do not forego one shilling of advantage by our proposal.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
I am exceedingly glad to hear that; but I may throw out the suggestion. Does the right hon. Gentleman not think this ought to have been an occasion of making a profit—I mean a large and considerable profit? I think that if Local Authorities are enabled to borrow on the security of the State they ought to pay for the accommodation—if £30,000,000, £40,000,000, or £50,000,000 sterling is funded in a Public Works Budget, the State ought to have some margin of profit.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It is impossible to alter bargains which have already been made. You cannot, in constituting a Local Loans Budget, increase the amount of interest which is to be paid by Local Authorities. If the right hon. Gentleman will assist us in future in insisting upon reasonably profitable terms, I shall be extremely obliged to him; but I could not, in framing a Local Budget, increase the charges so as to secure an additional Revenue.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
It is only within very recent times that the principle of lending at low rates has been introduced. I will cordially support him in every attempt to prevent any advantage being taken of the State. Now, Sir, with reference to the appropriation of the surplus. I want to say a word or two about the contributions in aid of local rates. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has thrown this been apparently and really to the agricultural interest, and as such the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) has just accepted it. But I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the great increase of local taxation, about which so much complaint is now made, is an increase in the urban and Metropolitan districts. During the last 10 years there has been hardly any increase in local taxation in rural districts, notwithstanding all the complaints we hear about the amount of this taxation. The last Report of the Local Government Board puts the increase in 10 years, in the Metropolis at 59 per cent, in the urban districts at 52 per cent, and in the exclusively rural districts at £188,000, or something like 11 per cent. The whole of the £250,000 which the right hon. 1507 Gentleman is proposing to vote towards the repair of roads, will go into the hands of the Rural Authorities. The towns will benefit to a very small extent. The entire amount which was given last year to boroughs having separate Courts of Quarter Sessions was only £5,800, and the entire amount given to the Metropolis was £1,731. If you are to have any contribution towards local taxation, you ought to share it fairly amongst all locally taxed bodies. The amount of rates levied in the pound constitutes a fair claim on the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will adopt—I am sorry he has adopted it—this extravagant mode of subvention of local rates. I maintain that the people who have a right to complain of the gross injustice of the present mode of levying local taxation, levying it on one description of property, and one description of property alone, are the residents in the towns. The average rate in rural districts is little over 2s. in the pound, whereas in towns it is 5s., 6s., 7s., and 8s. in the pound; and the residents in towns are subjected to this heavy taxation levied on one description of property only. It has suggested itself to my mind that the Committee should remember, in dealing with the financial condition of the country, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is asking for an Imperial taxation of £76,000,000; and that in addition to that there is a local taxation. of £25,000,000—practically the amount annually raised by taxation in this country is over £100,000,000. Now, with reference to the proposal for stopping the payment of the National Debt. I am not going to follow in the footsteps of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, who has put the case very clearly before the Committee and the country. The proposition is one on which, no doubt, a great deal of discussion will take place; and the only remark I have to make will be in reference to the criticism the right hon. Gentleman made in contrasting two periods—that of Sir Stafford Northcote in 1874–5, and that of his own Chancellorship in 1876–7. No doubt the periods are essentially different. If the prosperity of 1874–5 has passed away, that, surely, is no reason for increasing 1508 our Expenditure so many millions beyond what it was at that time. I should like to strengthen the hands of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the application made to him with regard to the Post Office. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby has shown that the Post Office revenue is a steadily decreasing revenue. In 1883, the Post Office revenue amounted to £3,200,000. It has now got considerably under £3,000,000, and I think the Budget of to-day shows a still greater reduction. When propositions are made for increased expenditure in the Post Office, the House and the country should understand that they amount to propositions for increased taxation. There is only one other subject to which I wish to allude, and that is the subject of the Death Duties. I very much regret the right hon. Gentleman has not taken the opportunity of dealing with these duties. Two years ago, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) proposed to deal with the Death Duties; to put them upon a just and equitable basis affecting all descriptions of property. That question was fairly thrashed out, all the machinery and all the figures are available, and I think it would have been quite as easy to have dealt with the Death Duties as to have dealt with the arrangements in respect to the repayment of the National Debt. Now that the right hon. Gentleman has postponed the consideration of the Death Duties for another year, I de-sire to ask him to consider whether he does not think the time has arrived when there might not only be an extension of the area over which the Death Duties are levied, but also a simplification of the principle on which they are levied; and I think it would be far better if we could have one uniform rate levied upon property at death. We should thus get rid of the difficulty of long reversions, and we should get rid of the distinctions or differences of rates. Now that we have seen a Chancellor of the Exchequer bold enough to suspend the repayment of the National Debt, I think we need not despair of having a Chancellor of the Exchequer who will have the courage to deal with the Death Duties upon a broad principle. A Chancellor of the Exchequer who does this will, I think, find resources which, will 1509 enable him to carry out many of those reforms which we all desire to see accomplished. I have only to say, in conclusion, that although I have been compelled to differ from the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps he will allow me to express my unfeigned admiration of the great ability and masterly power with which for three hours he engaged the attention of the Committee. Whether we agree with him or not, we cannot withhold the expression of our admiration of the financial ability and genius which he displayed in his lucid and eloquent Statement.
Mr. Courtney, I have no wish to curtail the discussion; but I rise now to deal with the questions which have been put to me, lest, if I delayed my answer any longer I should be accused of want of courtesy to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. I will deal, in the first instance, with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler); but I desire to make this preliminary remark—that several other right hon. Gentlemen, and the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), have spoken with regard to what I ought to have proposed—of my omission to deal in my Budget with most important matters. I must once more throw myself upon the indulgence of the Committee and the public, and beg them to remember the very short time that I have been in Office, and, at the same time, the very great problems with which I—in common with my Colleagues—have had to deal. It has been my wish to pay considerable attention to ail legislative proposals, especially as regards finance, and I assure the Committee that it is from no want of appreciation of the greatness of the subjects with which I have not been able to deal, that they, unfortunately, have not been included in the proposals I have made to the Committee. For instance, I admit the immense importance of the subject of gold coinage; but it is a subject with which it would be extremely wrong to deal without going thoroughly into the matter, and the very variety of the suggestions that have been made to the Committee as to the methods in which they might deal with this complicated problem shows that I should be scarcely 1510 justified in accepting any particular scheme without having examined the question from every side. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington is perfectly right in saying that the ground had been carefully prepared; but it is not only the question of the gold coinage that has to be taken into consideration. The very discussion to-night has shown that it is no use thinking of that alone. There is the question of the £1 note; there is the question of the country bank issues; and there is also the question of the profit made by the Bank of England, and of the profit made by the Mint; and I am bound to say that all these questions taken together form a congeries of problems with which it would not have been possible for me to deal hastily, and which I could not take up unless I had at least a couple of months in which to devote my best attention to them. The matter is one I am most anxious to take in hand, and I can assure the noble Lord I propose to pay immediate attention to it; and I only hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) will be able to use his influence with his Friends to secure proper time and opportunity for the discussion of any measure dealing with the coinage which the Chancellor of the Exchequer may still be able to submit to the House in the present Session. I do not despair in the least of being able to produce a measure; but these are questions which require a certain amount of time for their discussion, and I am not sanguine that we shall in this Session of Parliament be able to find the necessary amount of time to deal with them. I wish, however, to endorse every word said by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and the hon. Gentleman opposite, who pointed out that we have not only to deal with the difficulty of making arrangements concerning the gold coinage and the paper circulation, but that there is a question also with regard to the silver circulation and the bronze circulation. They wish these matters to be taken up, and I endorse their views very cordially. With regard to the bronze circulation, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the White-chapel Division of the Tower Hamlets 1511 (Mr. Montagu) suggested that more liberal terms should have been granted with regard to the exchange. In the decision I took on the subject I was not guided by any anxiety on account of the Exchequer, because the interest of the Exchequer in this matter seemed to me not to compare in importance with that of the people, especially the poor people amongst whom the bronze coin circulates. But I was anxious, once for all, to strike a blow at the foreign coin circulating here, so that there might be no temptation again to promote the free introduction of such coins into Great Britain and Ireland. It was necessary to strike foreign coins—if I may say so—with a serious disability. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton made some remarks to which I would here call attention. I thank him for the cordial and complimentary terms in which he spoke of myself. He said, in the course of his speech, that urban districts would receive no relief under the present scheme, and I admit the justice of his criticism so far as it goes. But I regret, in connection with that, that in my Statement I did not sufficiently dwell on the great increase in value that there has been in house property during recent years as compared with landed property. The fact is, that the agricultural depression has fallen with extreme weight upon that margin of rent and that margin of profit which is left over to the landowner and the farmer after meeting the charges falling upon them. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton is familiar enough with the subject to be able to follow me. The increase of rates in the country districts falls not on the total assessment, but on that portion of the revenue which is left to the landowner after meeting the charge for in-cumbrances, and which is frequently only a half or a third of the whole; and, consequently, there has been an. extreme pressure on the agricultural ratepayers, because the margin of profits on which they have paid their rents has been reduced much more in proportion than has been the case in the urban districts. The argument may not carry conviction to my right hon. Friend; but, at all events, he will see that I have reasons for regarding the case of the agricultural and the urban, ratepayer as dis- 1512 similar. Moreover, £74,000 under this proposal will go to urban districts; but, at the same time, I accept my right hon. Friend's criticism to a certain extent. This is a matter which I think we need not make a Party question at all. In fact, I have received quite as many representations from Liberal Members as from Conservative Members on this side of the House with regard to it. There is no doubt that, owing to the particular circumstances of the last three years, there has been great pressure upon the ratepayers of the poorest of the agricultural districts, much greater than has been felt in the towns. I have further to remark, that this concession is not in any way to be considered as prejudicing the great question of the reform of local taxation. It is most distinctly temporary; and I think, although it is a large concession in one sense, it is not sufficiently large to induce any Conservative reactionary to resist the considerable convenience which will arise from a reform of local government. I do not think that that argument would have sufficient weight. Now, Mr. Courtney, the main objection which has been made to my proposals, and one the force of which I am quite prepared to acknowledge, is with regard to the diminution of the payment on account of Debt from £28,000,000 to £26,000,000. I hope I may deal shortly with this question in replying to the criticisms which have come from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and from other hon. Members. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton has stated the case in this way. He said the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington and I would both agree in this, that the Income Tax, under the altered circumstances of the present time as compared with the prosperity of former years, could scarcely be left at 8d. in the pound, but that the noble Lord was for diminishing the taxation by curtailment of Expenditure, whilst I was in favour of relieving the taxpayers by diminishing the payment of the National Debt. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, although extremely friendly and complimentary to me in some respects, 1513 passed a very severe criticism upon j the proposal I submitted to the House. He begun by alluding to a compliment which I had paid to him—
He repudiated the first compliment which I paid him, but which I think he certainly deserves—namely, that he did contribute to so-curing a surplus in the past year. The noble Lord was a vigilant and severe guardian of the public purse; and he succeeded in averting many a claim upon it which, but for the ferocity he displayed, would probably have reduced the very creditable surplus at the end of the year to a much smaller figure. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord will not repudiate the compliment I paid him. I will pay him a compliment also as to the Estimates for the coming year. In this direction he exercised his whole influence to diminish the Estimates of all the Departments; but I should be committing an error of taste if I were to attempt to distinguish how much was due to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, and how much to the noble Lord who presides over the Admiralty, and the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for the War Department (Mr. E. Stanhope). I am aware that the noble Lord put every pressure in his power on the Departments in order to induce them to reduce expenditure; but how far the reductions were due to exertions on their part, or to the pressure brought to bear upon them by the noble Lord, will never be cleared up, but remains in the confidence of the noble Lord and his Colleagues. All I can say is, that when I came into Office I found a great disposition on the part of Heads of Departments to do their utmost to cut down expenditure and meet the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The noble Lord was scarcely justified in saying that I did not mention economy from the beginning of my speech to the end. I spoke, as he acknowledged, upon the necessity of economy with regard to the Civil Service Estimates, and I also spoke of great economy that was being exercised on the part of Heads of the Army and Navy; and I pointed out how I trusted and believed that a large portion of the present expenditure for defensive pur- 1514 poses was exceptional and temporary. I also expressed confidence that in the coming year there would be considerable decrease in the expenditure; and it must not be forgotten, and the country must not forget, that the Estimates for the Supply Services this year show a reduction of between £700,000 and £800,000, as compared with last year. I regret that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen should put me—who am responsible for the public purse—into the position of having to defend expenditure upon the Army and Navy; but, at the same time, it would be unjust on my part if I wore to overlook the difficulties that have been placed on the great Departments by the exceptional measures which the noble Lord distinctly recognized, but which he said did not sufficiently account for the whole increase that had taken place. Now I wish there could be an opportunity, once for all, for the House in its corporate capacity to make up its mind what it wishes with regard to the Army and Navy, instead of from year to year, according to changes of Government, bandying to and fro charges of extravagant Expenditure. I wish that the House of Commons, or the country as represented by the House of Commons, would make up its mind, once for all, as to the amount it is right to spend, and that having made so up its mind, it would accept the sacrifices involved cheerfully, so as to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to frame his Budgets accordingly. We are most anxious to devise some plan by which we could so present the Estimates to the House as to enable them to define a policy not for one particular year, but for a series of years. I hope the Committee will think I am justified, after the speech of the noble Lord, in saying a word or two on this question of Naval and Military Expenditure. The point is this. If this expenditure is not necessary—if it is not absolutely essential for the security of the country—let it be reduced by all means, and let us insist that it shall be brought down to what is absolutely indispensable for the security of the country. But if it is necessary, then let us consider how the taxation requisite to meet it can be imposed in the most bearable form. To seek to persuade the country to reduce expenditure by putting taxation on in 1515 so disagreeable a form that the tax- payers refuse to vote what is demanded would be a course against which. I, for one, would seriously protest. Yet that is a doctrine which is almost avowed by some right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench. They say the only means of convincing the country not to undertake extra expenditure on the great Services is by making the taxation so uncomfortable that it will not be be submitted to. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, that is not exactly the argument of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, but it is the variation of the noble Lord's argument adopted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He put it in that form. The noble Lord was very strenuous upon the point that any increase in our armaments ought to be borne by additional taxation. This was to make the country feel a great inducement to cut down expenditure by reducing armaments. The noble Lord says the sums now expended are much too large, and if the noble Lord thinks this expenditure too large he is right in using every effort to diminish it; and he is not far wrong, from the point of view which I alluded to just now, in desiring to put the screw on the country by means of stringent taxation. But I want the House of Commons, which I presume has some common sense, to decide for itself without the screw whether the present expenditure on the Army and Navy is too high or is not. I do not wish to be put in the position of defending the present scale of Army Expenditure, still it is right that the Committee and the public should remember that a great portion of that expenditure is due to the talent of inventors in constantly discovering new guns, new shells, new ammunition, and new engines of destruction of every kind; and that if these new inventions were not adopted, the Government would be blamed for not providing the Nation with the best weapons, just as when they are adopted, it is blamed for what is called extravagant expenditure. Now, what is the cause of the present exceptional Expenditure in the Army? Is it not in a great part due to the new small arm? Very well, if the House of Commons wishes the country not to vote these sums, and to put the screw on the taxpayers of the 1516 country by heavy taxes to induce them not to vote these increased sums, then do not lot us at the same time insist that it is necessary to arm our soldiers with the best weapon which is available at the moment? Are we or are we not to go into action with worse guns than those of our neighbours? It is not enough to point to increased expenditure; it is necessary to say in what respect the expenditure has been wrong, but neither the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, nor the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, nor the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, could place their finger upon any particular point such as the expenditure for securing new arms, and could say that that particular expenditure ought not to have been incurred. They say, generally, that there has been waste and maladministration, and, so far as that is the case, let us deal with it; but, at the same time, lot us also make up our minds whether we want less defence than we have at present. I, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, would be extremely glad to see a reduction in the Army and Navy Estimates of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000; but I say this with one reservation. If that reduction should lead to panics by which trade would be interrupted, by which credit would be affected, and consequently by which a great injury would be inflicted on the Revenue; and if these panics should lead in the future as they have led over and over again in the past, to reckless expenditure of public money the moment that the slightest danger arises, then I say that it is a dangerous and a wasteful policy in time of peace—such as we are now enjoying—and which we wish to continue to enjoy, to insist on an excessive reduction. Reductions on a large scale have frequently been made; but they have almost always been followed by a spasmodic increase afterwards, and by Votes of Credit, out of which an opportunity has been taken to fill up the stores that had been depleted in these seasons of economy. Such panics, have I may almost say, come to the rescue of the Departments after they had been unduly weakened by great fits of economy. Now, I trust that neither 1517 the noble Lord, nor any Gentleman opposite, will say that this language of mine points in the slightest degree to any inclination on my part to be less anxious with regard to economy than any other Member of the Committee. Of course, everyone in my position, if he has any ambition to deal with the important financial problems that are before the country, hopes not to be merely one year in Office, but to have more than an opportunity of proposing financial reforms. Therefore, no one is more deeply interested than the Chancellor of the Exchequer in seeing that there should be a large and progressive de-crease in the Army and Navy Estimates; and I shall use my utmost endeavours, with my noble and right hon. Friends at the Admiralty and the War Office, and with the rest of my Colleagues, to bring about a diminution in these directions. But I do not think, if the Government, as a whole, is convinced that a certain expenditure is necessary for the defence of the country, that it would be fair for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to endeavour to counteract that policy by making the burden for the discharge of this expenditure so disagreeable to the taxpayers that they would revolt against it. One word I am bound to say in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, when he says that our Army is the most costly Army in the world, and that we get the least amount of value out of it. I would ask, has the right hon. Gentleman added to the cost of foreign armies the cost to the population of forced conscription? I am continually seeing these comparisons made, and on paper they are extremely plausible; but when I see them I cannot but remember that in this country we are happily free from that blood-tax imposed on the rest of Europe, by which men are taken away in the prime of life, and at that period when it is most important for them to become bread winners, and are forced into the Army. Let the right hon. Gentleman add to the pay of Continental Armies the loss to those who are forced to enter them, and the loss to their families by their being taken away from remunerative employment, and he will find a totally different bill from what he appears 1518 to imagine. There is another point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, which I would refer, and that is a question which has as deep an interest for myself as it has for the right hon. Gentleman. I allude to the question of the Non-Effective Service. That is a source of expenditure which requires watching at every point. It is no use dealing with existing rights, because the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that it is impossible to cut down the pensions of those who are now entitled to them. The proper course is to make different terms with those who may hereafter enter the Service, and that is a matter to which I agree the greatest attention should be paid. I think that, if possible, in our arrangements both for men and for officers in each of the great Services, we rely too much on pensions and too little on actual wages; but, of course, the claims of those who enter the Service to pensions enables us to secure them at a much lower rate of pay than we should be otherwise able to do. If this Non-Effective Vote did not exist, we should have to face a czrtain increase in the Effective Vote. And there is another point with regard to the Non -Effective Vote, at the present time, which should be borne in mind. No one who is sitting opposite to me will deny that some of the greatest reforms in the Army and Navy for which—and I associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman opposite—we have taken credit in the past, have consisted in the reorganization of those Services which we believe has added very greatly to their efficiency, but which has also added very largely to the Pension List. I do not know what effect was produced by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh, when he spoke of the large number of men who, having been underpaid for years, enjoy pensions without rendering any further service to the State. But there was no one who was more convinced of the necessity of creating that flow of promotion in the Services which now exists—and with reference to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton drew a not very convincing analogy from the case of the Bar—than my right hon. 1519 Friend the Member for South Edinburgh. I regret the growth of the Non-Effective Service. It is a matter that must be watched; but it is not a matter for which either Party in the State can be considered particularly responsible. It is a matter in which the whole House of Commons should take an interest. But lot me return once more to the question of Expenditure in general. What I protest against is the view that the whole of the increase in expenditure for new weapons ought to be put on one class of taxpayers in order to create a rebellion amongst them against that expenditure which the House of Commons, in its wisdom, considers to be necessary. It seems to me a most objectionable policy that the House of Commons should vote these increased Estimates, and then should endeavour to disgust the country with the work which it has itself undertaken, by imposing taxation in a disagreeable form which will prevent the country from doing that which the House thinks it necessary that it should do. Now I do not know to what extent I have to defend myself against the proposition—apart from any question of Expenditure—that the reduction in the amount applicable to the Sinking Fund of the National Debt from £28,000,000 to £26,000,000 is a change that ought never to have been proposed. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington says he doubts whether this is my own Budget. I am afraid I must tell him—though I fear, after what he has said, that it will lower me very much in his financial, if not in his personal estimation—that this is my own Budget. I am not only purely responsible for it, but I have proposed it upon my own initiative; and, as I am responsible for it, I must take blame for it, even though it increase the censure of the noble Lord. But the noble Lord did not object, as I understand, to the reduction from £28,000,000 to £26,000,000 in itself. I think he said the proposal was a good one. He did not object to tampering with the National Debt; but he objected to tampering with it in the particular mode I have proposed.
LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL M
I tried to characterize the £6,000,000 which the country pays annually at present in reduction of the Capital of the 1520 National Debt as a great financial reserve weapon in the hands of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, which ought only to be resorted to in cases of emergency, such as war, or when the Chancellor of the Exchequer wishes to carry through some great financial operation with regard to the taxation of the country.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
That is just the sentence of the noble Lord's on which I had fastened. This Debt-charge, he says, is not only a great financial weapon to be used in case of emergency; but it is also a great reserve for au enterprising Chancellor of the Exchequer who may want to carry out some large scheme of financial reform. It was precisely because it was to a certain degree in my mind, that it would be possible for a Chancellor of the Exchequer for the purpose of a great financial reform to seize not only on part of this £6,000,000, but on the whole of it—it was because I saw what a temptation this great reserve would be that I thought it safer to place the matter on a basis which could be defended, rather than to leave it on the basis on which it stands now. I saw that this £6,000,000 was a formidable and enticing sum to have at the disposal of a bold and enterprising Chancellor of the Exchequer. I could not guarantee the existence of the Sinking Fund for very many years if it were not placed on a footing more conformable to the financial condition of the time. I am sorry to have impaired this reserve of future Chancellors of the Exchequer by diminishing the amount which will be at the disposal of bold and adventurous spirits in the future. But it seemed to me that there were strong and immediate reasons why some relief should be given in certain quarters where taxation has failed to be remunerative, as in the Tobacco Duty, or where it has been raised temporarily and exceptionally, as in the case of the payers of Income Tax. For these purposes it seemed to me a legitimate operation to reduce the Debt-charge from £28,000,000 to £20,000,000. The noble Lord will remember that he was a Member of the Government that imposed the 2d. additional Income Tax—it was imposed, I think, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael 1521 Hicks-Beach), when he succeeded the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, and that at the same time suspended almost the whole of the Sinking Fund. This sacred sum which is to remain at the disposal of Chancellors of the Exchequer for great reforms, was again trenched upon in the following year to the extent of £800,000 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. I do not want to enter into a controversy on this question with the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, or with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, or any Member of this House, in any bitter spirit. I am glad that there is a considerable feeling in the House that the Debt should continue to be paid off in largo sums. I appreciate fully the spirit that animates the Committee with regard to that point; and it is a question for them to determine whether they think it is safer—looking to the future—and whether it is juster—looking to the present—whether it is fairer—looking to the incidence of taxation—that the whole burden of paying off Debt should be placed on one class of taxpayers; or whether I am justified in relieving that class and placing the Debt-charge, as I believe, on a safer footing in the future, by reducing the annual amount to £26,000,000. I have endeavoured to deal with the principal objections which have been raised against my proposals. I will now touch on some point of detail. A question was asked me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby with regard to Treasury Bills. The Treasury Bills which already exist, to my mind, are on too large a scale, the total Floating Debt being £15,000,000 or £16,000,000. It is extremely cheap, I will admit, and there is a temptation to keep the whole afloat; but I should not consider it to be regular finance permanently to rely on Treasury Bills to that extent. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington asked a question with regard to the Customs and Excise; he asked whether the Estimate for Excise was not somewhat too high. I have explained to the Committee that there would have been a fall in Excise, had it not been for the anticipated increase of £130,000 on beer. This has more than compensated for the de- 1522 crease—not a largo decrease—on spirits. That decrease, as I stated, would have been larger but that there is an additional day for consumption in the year. With regard to other duties, we have allowed for a decrease in the Legacy Duty and Succession Duty; but a certain amount of increase has been set down in regard to stamps. The noble Lord was perfectly correct in saying—and I think this was also said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby—that it is the duty of a Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept in the main the views of his most able advisers in the Customs and Inland Revenue Departments; but it is also the duty of a Chancellor of the Exchequer to subject them to what may be called cross-examination. I have endeavoured to argue the matter with thorn, so as to elicit the whole of the facts, and I have come to the conclusion that, whatever the Estimates may be, they have not been placed at too high a figure. The Estimates with regard to spirits were framed very carefully, and the Estimates with regard to beer have been arrived at after taking into account the effect of the low price of hops and the extra day for consumption; and, on the whole, relying upon the ability of my advisers, I shall be very much disappointed if, at the end of the present financial year—if should it be my fortune still to preside over the finances of the country—I shall not be able to show at least the surplus estimated. I should hope it would be exceeded.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
Like other Members of the Committee, I have listened with great interest to the very able Statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen). the proposal to keep a clear and separate record of local loan transactions is very important. As regards the Income Tax on farmers, I presume that under the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the difference between English farmers on the one hand, and Irish and Scotch on the other, will be removed. Whatever reasons there might have been originally, I know none now why English farmers should pay more than those of Scotland and Ireland. I presume that it is not proposed to transfer the payments of those who avail themselves of his offer 1523 to Schedule D, but only that the calculation should be made on that basis. It is certainly desirable to keep the profits of farming in a special Schedule; and though it may be levied on the same principles as under Schedule D, I presume it will still be returned under Schedule B. Considering the great demands on the time and attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer since his accession to Office, I do not wonder that he has not been able to mature any proposals with reference to the state of the gold coinage. At the same time, it is most unsatisfactory, and demands the early attention of the right hon. Gentleman. I may say confidently that, at the present time, more than 60 per cent is so light as to be no longer legal tender. Mr. Martin and Mr. Palgrave estimated it some years ago at 65 per cent, and Mr. Agar, the able secretary of the Institute of Bankers, confirmed me when I say that at present, certainly as much as 60 per cent is so much worn as to be no longer legal tender, and, of course, it becomes worse every year. To place the gold circulation in a proper condition would now cost, in round numbers, £1,000,000, and the wear and tear amounts to about £60,000 a-year. In round numbers, therefore, about £100,000 a-year is required to replace and keep the gold circulation in a satisfactory condition. I think, however, that we have a fair right to call on the right hon. Gentle-man the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide this amount. At present he makes a profit of over £180,000 out of the English circulation, which is more than double as much as is required to keep the gold currency in a satisfactory condition. On account of the Bank of England notes he received last year over £153,000; for Stamp Duty, £60,000; and from the Mint £74,000. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Whitechapel Division of the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Montagu) suggests that we should deal with the difficulty of light gold by the issue of £1 notes, and seems to think that there would be no danger from forgery in this country if that plan were adopted. He bases his statement upon Reports from foreign countries; but I would point out to him that the whole system of transacting financial business in 1524 foreign countries is so different from ours at home that I think it would be unsafe to rely upon those Reports the case of Scotland is, of course, one nearer in point; but we have this remarkable circumstance to remember—that in the old days when we had £1 notes in England, and they had £1 notes in Scotland as they have now, there were no forgeries of those notes in Scotland, whilst there were an immense number in this country the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) said he never could see any reason for that. Well, I would suggest that the reason for that was that as in Scotland all the banks issued their own notes, the notes returned to the issuing bank in a few days; whereas in England, being issued by one central bank, they remained out for weeks, even for months. The consequence was that anyone who was inclined to forge knew that in Scotland the police would come down on them in seven or eight days, whereas in England they would, perhaps, have months to escape in. I think, therefore, this question should be carefully looked into before we return again to the old system of £1 notes the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) proposed to raise the funds necessary either by doing away with the half-sovereign or by increased economy in management. With regard to doing away with the half- sovereign, I think he will find that the general opinion in mercantile quarters is that the half-sovereign is a very convenient coin; and, as regards economy, I doubt if any large sum could be secured in that way. Then there is the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers). when Chancellor of the Exchequer, that we should keep the half-sovereign, but should make it a token coin and reduce the amount of gold in it from 10s. to 9s. I never shared the apprehension which was felt with reference to that change; but I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that bankers at that time were very unwilling to agree to the proposal, and that it was not favourably received. The bankers, so far as their views could be ascertained, were ready to give an assent—but it was a reluctant assent—to this proposal in view of the 1525 great importance of having the question settled. I have shown, however, that the country derives a sum from the currency ample, and more than ample, to keep it in a satisfactory condition. Moreover, as more is required, I think it is worthy of consideration whether we might not make a moderate increase in the amount of notes issued against security. At present the total issue of Bank of England notes issued against securities is £15,750,000. The question arises whether some moderate addition to the issue against securities might not safely be permitted. The presumption, of course, is strongly in favour of such a conclusion. The amount issued otherwise than against gold is absolutely less now than it was 40 years ago, while, in the meantime, the population and commerce has immensely increased. No doubt the amount issued by the Bank of England itself has been raised from £14,000,000 to £15,750,000; £475,000 was added in 1855, £175,000 in 1861, £350,000 in 1866, and £750,000 in 1881; but this has been to replace other lapsed issues to a still larger amount—over £3,000,000. Now let us consider what has been the actual amount of Bank of England notes in circulation. Last year the lowest sum in circulation was £33,400,000 on December 29; in 1881 it was £35,000,000 at the same period. Since 1870 the amount has never once fallen to £33,000,000. In the last 20 years it has never fallen as low as £30,000,000. Since the original passage of the Bank Act it has never fallen below £21,000,000, or, on the present basis, £24,000,000. Under these circumstances, it might be worthy of consideration whether the amount could not be raised somewhat without risk. Even if the amount were kept exactly where it stood when the Bank Act was passed, and we were to do no more than re-issue the amounts of country bank circulation which have lapsed, the interest thus accruing would be sufficient not only to make good the annual loss from wear and tear, but also to provide a fund which would go far to replace the present light gold without additional loss to the country. The longer this question is deferred the more serious and difficult it will become; and I earnestly commend it to the early attention of the 1526 right hon. Gentleman. I also greatly regret the proposal to reduce the Tobacco Duties under existing circumstances. As to Marine Insurance, I think it only right that I should express my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for his statement, having on several occasions urged successive Chancellors of the Exchequer to reduce the stamps on certain classes of Marine Insurance. He says, truly, that the effect of the present system has been to drive a certain class of insurance almost entirely out of the country. I am glad that he has seen fit to lower the duty, and I am disposed to think that he may receive a larger revenue from the small duty than he received from the higher duty. But I cannot say how much I regret some of the other proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. In the first place, the increased subvention to Local Authorities appears to me to be a step in the wrong direction, and one I never expected to hoar the right hon. Gentleman himself propose. With regard to the contribution to Ireland, I would suggest that if he is going to make it at all, it would be better to do it by way of increasing the stipends of the under-paid schoolmasters rather than in any other way. But the cardinal feature of the Budget really is the reduction of the amount set apart for repayment of capital of the National Debt. The right hon. Gentleman, in support of his scheme, says he puts this sum in a position in which it can be defended. Why will it be more defensible in the future than it has been before? It seems to me that his proposal will make it more difficult to defend it. The plan proposed by Sir Stafford Northcote, if it had been carried out, would have enabled us to reduce the National Debt by a substantial figure, and would, in the course of a few years, have enabled us to effect a reduction of the interest on Debt to the advantage of the taxpayers of the country. Sir Stafford Northcote's Sinking Fund, however, was never put in force on the lines he proposed; but I did hope that now his old Colleagues are on the Treasury Bench they would, in the present time of peace, have mentioned the Sinking Fund upon which he laid so much stress. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is re- 1527 ducing the amount of payment in extinction of Debt, and is doing this in a time of profound peace. I cannot help feeling great regret that he is taking this course. I think it shows a want of firm policy. There would be much greater confidence felt in the statements made with regard to reduction of interest on Debt if people could feel that successive Chancellors of the Exchequer have made up their minds what course they intend to pursue with regard to this great question. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington rather threw out a hope that the right hon. Gentleman might probably reconsider the course he is proposing in this matter. I do not know if it is too late for the right hon. Gentleman to do so. In the remarks he made just now he seemed to be glad that his proposal had been freely criticized by the Committee. I think he will see that it is the desire of the Committee to continue the payments in reduction of the National Debt. Though it is true, as he says, that if we continue the reduction at £5,000,000 a-year we shall pay off the Debt in 70 years, that is assuming that we are so fortunate as to remain at peace and suffer no great national disaster. That, I think, is too much to hope. Under the circumstances, we were not doing too much for reduction of Debt; and I regret, moreover, that the right hon. Gentleman has, to some extent, committed himself to the future, because, though he only gives up £1,500,000 of Income Tax this year by the process I have referred to, the remission next year will be £2,000,000. I certainly concur with what has been said by other speakers who have expressed regret that the right hon. Gentleman has not reduced the Naval and Military Expenditure, instead of interfering with the repayment of Debt.
§ MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
My reason for venturing to take part in this discussion is that I was sent here to watch those questions which affect agriculture, and I do not like this opportunity to pass without thanking the right hon. Gentleman for, at any rate, remembering agriculture in the Budget he has just placed before us. I was very much surprised to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir "William Harcourt) seemed to demur 1528 to agriculture and trade being described as being in a state of great depression.
MR. C. W. GRAYM
I am very glad I have elicited that explanation from the right hon. Gentleman. I must say I fail to see how agriculture can be de-pressed—and "ruin" is a bettor term for its present condition—without breaking down with it all other trades and industries in the country, For that reason I should say that everyone interested in either trade or agriculture must be indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for doing a little for us, if not very much. I feel sure it is to future Chancellors of the Exchequer, and to future Budgets, that agriculture will have to look for some relief and for restoration to that proud position which it used to occupy. We heard a good deal about land tenure yesterday; but I believe it will be fiscal reform that will bring back agricultural prosperity more than anything that can be done in the direction of a Land Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) appeared to me to prejudge the small subvention which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is about to give to the agricultural interest. I am very much surprised indeed to find that any hon. Member of this House should judge so small a subvention as this. I think I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that rating had not increased in the rural districts? [Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER assented.] I see he assents to that. Well, if rating has not increased, certainly the power of paying rates has greatly decreased. It was not long since a fresh impost was placed on the shoulders—the already galled shoulders—of the farmers, I mean the School Tax. I agree that national education is a great thing, and I shall certainly uphold it; but the farmer is not in a position to pay increased taxes, and anyone who has his interest at heart will not grudge him the small subvention which has been granted to him. by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A great deal has been said in connection with the Army and Navy. I should be getting out of my depth if I were to do 1529 more than touch on that point; but I must remind hon. Gentlemen who seem to grudge money for the maintenance of the Army and Navy that so long as they insist that foreign productions shall be admitted into this country without paying duty—I am now alluding to food—they must remember that the position of England may be jeopardized one day by the fact that we are only able to grow a very small proportion of the food required for the subsistence of the nation. Please to remember that. And if you will not allow one word in connection with fiscal reform to be dropped in this House as applied to food, remember that you must take the consequences, and you must be willing to find the money to keep your ports perfectly open, and to protect the seas by which your food comes in, or else you will find one day that the cheap loaf of which we had heard so much will turn into a dear one. You will find that the land you have allowed to go out of cultivation will not become covered with grain by the magical wave of a wand. Before the land you are allowing to go out of cultivation, and in aid of which you begrudge this small subvention, could be made to produce the food we want, we might be at the mercy of some Foreign Power. There are many other matters mentioned in the Budget which might give relief to agriculture; but it would not be fair, at this hour of the morning, to touch upon them. All I can say is that if hon. Gentlemen opposite care one rap for the position of England's agriculture, they must show more sympathy with us in the future than they have done in the past. English farmers, I am proud to say, have kept quiet, under the greatest temptation, to go in for agitation. But there may be an end even to the patience of an English farmer. I hope, however, it will be shown that it is not the case that the House of Commons only listened to grievances which had been brought to its attention by turbulent agitation. I thank the House for having listened to these remarks; and I most sincerely hope that no one will suffer from the little attention which has been given to my industry by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
Mr. Courtney, I propose to-night to 1530 adhere to the old rule, which was that the debate, on the first night when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has opened his Budget, should be confined as much as possible to asking questions arising out of his Statement, and to obtaining further information upon points of doubt. Therefore, all I wish to say on the general question, I think I can say in a very few words. The Chancellor of the Exchequer appears to me to have placed before the House, extremely clearly, questions which are really of great complication, and however some of them may involve difficulty, he, at any rate, has done his utmost to make them clear to all of us. I thank him very much for the great length at which he explained to the House some points—points which, perhaps, might seem to be of less importance, but which, in reality, form most valuable portions of his Budget, and which will be very much better debated on future occasions, in consequence of the very great clearness, and oven the great length, at which he stated some of them. But I rise particularly to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer one or two questions which we shall have to discuss on the day to which the present debate is adjourned, and which must form part of the most important section of that discussion. I wish to allude, in the first place, to the proposal with respect to the National Debt. the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated very plainly what he proposes to do; but what I think he will have very clearly to put to us when we on the next occasion are discussing the Budget—with respect to the diminution of the amount set aside for reducing the National Debt, is why he thinks it would be easier to stand by £26,000,000 than by £28,000,000. At first sight, of course, it was very much bettor to stand by what is and has been the law now for some years, which all Chancellors of the Exchequer following the late Sir Stafford Northcote have adhered to. It was necessary, on one occasion, in a great emergency, to abandon for a year the reduction of the Sinking Fund; but I think it will be necessary for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to show, very categorically, how it is easier to defend 26,000,000 than to defend £28,000,000, and how, if he is Chancellor of the Exchequer for another 1531 year or two, he will be able to repel demands for the reduction from £26,000,000 to £24,000,000, for instance, on the ground he has stated tonight. But I wish to put two other points to him for his consideration. He has said that this is the third year of the great Naval Expenditure initiated by Lord Northbrook; that Lord North-brook proposed to spread the expenditure over five years, and that the skill and the energy of the present Government and the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War have had the result of reducing those five years to three years, so that, at the end of the present year, that expenditure of about £6,000,000 will come to an end, £6,000,000 being, on an average, £2,000,000 a-year. The question I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to answer is this—if, therefore, we may look forward to a considerable reduction of this expenditure next year, why in this year make an alteration in the sum applied to the reduction of the National Debt? If you tide over the present year, you find the expenditure of the Army and Navy diminished by £2,000,000, and then there will be no excuse for reducing the Sinking Fund; and I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with that question. Then I wish to put this question. He gave reasons which were very intelligible why £28,000,000 was the amount set aside in prosperous times, when Sir Stafford Northcote fixed the amount of the Sinking Fund. But I want him to answer this—has he considered what proportion that bore to the entire amount of Revenue, or the entire amount of Expenditure? Because, I think he will find that when the Revenue was £72,000,000 a-year, Sir Stafford Northcote was of opinion that £28,000.000 was a fail-amount to be attributed to the reduction of the National Debt. Now the Revenue has increased to £90,000,000, and the primâ facie argument will arise—if you have £90,000,000 of Revenue now, where you had only £72,000,000 before, and if out of that £72,000,000 £28,000,000 was to be sot aside for the reduction of the National Debt, you ought now to set aside not a smaller but a larger sum. Instead of that, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is proposing to set aside a 1532 smaller sum. I think that argument will require to be met. It is an argument which must occur to anyone considering the subject, and it was an argument which was very strongly put forward by Sir Stafford North cote himself, and also by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) when he supported, some years before, a large amount to be attributed to the Sinking Fund only in the shape of Terminable Annuities, in anticipation and to operate in lieu of the Sinking Fund settled by Sir Stafford Northcote. These three questions are, I think, worth the attention, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I said, I am not going to discuss the matter further, but to reserve the question to a future day, and I do not think it necessary to do more than ask these questions. All I have to do now is to say, in his presence, what I said said when he was not in the House, that I think he gave us very clearly an extremely difficult Statement—a Statement as difficult as any I have ever heard announced by a Chancellor of the Exchequer in this House; and that we own him very much in the shape of relief from the necessity of inquiring into points of detail; because, as I presume, we shall have, in a few days, his speech in our hands, so that we can refer to it. But I would ask him to expedite the printing of his speech, so that we may have the terms of the Statement he has made to us to-night in an official and formal shape; and also I hope he will, in some way, let us sooner have the figures of the computations of some of which he has only given the results. I have said I will not argue any point, and I will only conclude by asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what date he proposes to adjourn the Committee. We shall, I presume, pass the Tea Resolution as customary. [An hon. MEMBER: And Income Tax.] No, Sir; the Income Tax Resolution involves a change. There is no hurry, for I have known the Income Tax Resolution passed in the month of May. It would be very inconvenient to take a Resolution effecting change as a mere matter of form. Where there is no change there can be no objection to it.
§ Mr. GOSCHEN
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite, whether he will consider whether we might not take at 1533 all events, the reduction of the Tobacco Duty now? The trade is disturbed for a considerable time when a Resolution of that kind is hanging over its head. The Income Tax is of course extremely inconvenient. I acknowledge the force of the right hon. Gentleman's remark. I do not propose to press it; but with regard to the Tobacco Duty, if right hon. Gentleman opposite saw their way to assent to that Resolution, it would certainly further what we nearly all agree would be a desirable reform.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I look upon the proposal as to the Tobacco Duty as in all probability a good one; although I ought not to commit myself to more than that. But let me remind my right hon. Friend that the reduction of the Tobacco Duty cannot take place for some time, as there are large stocks. Therefore there can be no hurry about the matter. From what time does my right hon. Friend propose that it should take effect?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I was going to say I propose to fix this day month, the 21st of May, for the reduction of the Tobacco Duty; and the new drawback, which will be 3s. 3d. instead of 3s. 7d., may well come into operation on the 31st of May.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I think those are very reasonable dates; and if these dates are adopted, we might well pass the Resolution next week.
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER (London)
I have to ask the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) with regard to the half-sovereign. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give his best attention to it. I have listened to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I listened to one part with great satisfaction, and to another portion with great regret. What I listened to with great satisfaction was the proposition with regard to the local Budget. The right hon. Gentleman, being not only a statesman but a man of business, sees the great advantage of the alteration he has proposed. I believe it will be of the very greatest advantage. The part of his speech that I listened to with regret, was that which has been alluded to by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), by the hon. Member for the 1534 University of London, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), and others, in regard to the reduction of the £28,000,000 to £26,000,000. The late Sir Stafford Northcote made a great effort to reduce the Debt. I think it is a matter we should always bear strongly in mind to endeavour to effect a reduction of the Debt. I am very sorry to see a Government, and especially a Chancellor of the Exchequer in whom I have such confidence, lending themselves to such a course as this proposed reduction of the Sinking Fund. I may stand rather alone in the House, but of the three Budgets which the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington sketched out, it seemed to me that the first Budget was that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have adopted, when my right hon. Friend might have kept his surplus, not made any reduction in taxation, and taken the surplus of £800,000 or £900,000 which he would have in the Budget as it originally stood. It does not seem to me that £800,000 is too large a surplus for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to have. I know that his surplus, as far as my memory serves me, is some £100,000 larger than was last year returned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). But I think both the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and my right hon. Friend are sailing too near the wind. I think it would be desirable that any Chancellor of the Exchequer, bringing his Budget into the House, should have a surplus of something like £1,000,000. I do not think that is at all too large a surplus It would leave a margin for contingencies. At this hour of the evening I do not wish to detain the Committee; but there are these two points upon which I wished to express my opinion. I wished to express my satisfaction with the proposition with reference to the local Budget, but I greatly regret the proposition which has been made that we should not retain the principle laid down by Sir Stafford Northcote as regards the reduction of the National Debt.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
I do not wish to detain the Committee more than a few minutes. There are one or two points on. which I wish to say a word. I 1535 listened, with great attention, to the very excellent and very practical statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was certainly an essay in finance which ought to be a good lesson to this House; but, at the same time, there were several points to which I felt I must take exception. With regard to the point mentioned by the hon. Member for the Mal-don Division of Essex (Mr. C. W. Gray), the subsidy of £245,000 in aid of local rates, I look upon all those subsidies to local rates as only postponing a much larger and greater question which will have to be solved in connection with the agricultural interests of this country. This £245,000 will make no appreciable impression whatever on the rates paid by the agricultural interests of this country. It is like the case of the woman throwing her youngest child to the wolf, and then another child, and so on, but still the wolf follows on. The question raised by my right hon. Friend is a much larger question than will be solved in this way. It will only stand to the very much distressed farmer at the present time, as the child to the wolf. I think if farmers receive this with open arms, they are thankful for small mercies. Certainly, the farmers in my district will not thank them for these mercies. They complain that school rates, highway rates, and Union assessment rates, often amounting to 5s. to 7s. in the pound, all fell upon their shoulders. With regard to the transfer fee for railway and other stocks, I hardly like to give an opinion upon it, until I see the proposition more distinctly; but I cannot imagine that the Railway Companies of this country, with their £800,000,000 of capital, will care to pay a tax of £400,000 a-year, in order that they may free their shareholders from the cost of transfer, if this is the proposal. It seems almost too ridiculous, to put it in that broad way; and, therefore, I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to be content with the present amount of stamps which he already gets upon transfers. But, whilst I regret very much the position of the agricultural interest in this Budget, I also very much regret that the question of the Carriage Duty has not been dealt with. I believed the abolition of the Carriage Duty would do more for the agricultural interest than all the 1536 grants of £245,000 they receive, in this way—that it would enable many men farming near railways to keep carriages, and in the summer time they would be able to do passenger and other work. I believe the agricultural interest would be much more served by the abolition of the Carriage Duty, which would affect the middle class much more than the upper class. With regard to the Civil Service Estimates, I have always rejoiced, although there may be some little waste at South Kensington, in the much larger Estimates for the Education Votes of this country. They are showing their effects in the well-ordered population of the country in times of great depression, and, in many cases, great want. In the meantime, our pauperism has not increased to any appreciable extent in these bad times; whilst our prisoners and convicts have very much decreased under the beneficial influence of the education of this country. Therefore, I say it is not lost money to begin with, and I think that these Educational Grants will have still to be very much further extended, in order that we might get to that technical education which is so much required in this country, so that we may keep our manufactures and our agriculture up to the mark in the great competition which they have to undergo with all the nations of the world. But, after all, we come back to the great question of the Army and Navy, which has been so ably touched upon to-night. When I came into this House I seconded Motions for a reduction of the Budget by £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. We have a great example at the other side of the Atlantic, where they have 25,000 troops of all arms spread all over the country, and are repaying their Debt. We have now a Budget of £31,000,000 for our Army and Navy, when we could content ourselves with £6,000,000 or £8,000,000 less. If technical education is to go on—if this country is to march with other nations—it will either have to tax itself much more heavily on the necessaries and luxuries of life, or it will have to reduce the Army and Navy appreciably and sensibly. Although the announcements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were of a very satisfactory flavour, as they came out, yet it seems to me they come to very little. We are 1537 going to get 1d. off the Income Tax, and the sum for the reduction of the National Debt is going to be reduced from £28,000,000 to £26,000,000. It is merely a play upon finance. It seems to me we have got exactly back to where we started with the Sinking Fund, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) said that, whilst he approved of paying off the National Debt, the amount at which the National Debt would be discharged would be entirely dependent on the exigencies of the country. This question will be further discussed; but it seems to me that these points I have mentioned are points upon which my right hon. Friend's Budget has failed.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I will not occupy the time of the Committee more than five minutes, and I only rise because I represent a large agricultural constituency which grows, possibly, a greater breadth of wheat than almost any district in England, and which is unquestionably hard hit by the existence of agricultural distress. We did not expect a very brilliant Budget from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor any heroic reforms, because we know perfectly well that any legislation must come from below and not from above. It must come from the agricultural labourer. We know, Sir, that we have the sympathy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he said the other day that, in his opinion, taxation ought to be borne by real property and personalty in proper proportion, and also because we know that he thinks that burdens on land have increased and are increasing, whereas they ought to diminish. But our agricultural constituents will think that the concession he has made in reference to Schedule D is rather like a paper concession, and is really only a drop in the ocean of agricultural distress. What we want is a remission, or rather a redistribution, of local taxation. I say a redistribution rather than a remission, because I know that if local taxation is remitted, it must be redistributed so as to fall on some other shoulders; and I think that the shoulders of the farmer are those least able to bear any extra charges beyond those which fall upon them already. I think that the agricultural distress now existing is not un- 1538 worthy of the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lund is going out of tillage all over England, and in Ireland to the extent of thousands of acres, and when land is out of tillage employment for the agricultural labourer ceases, and when his employment ceases of course his wages cease. The problem, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the future will have to face is how the labourers are to be kept when there is no work for them to do. At the same time, on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread, we, in the agricultural districts, shall gratefully accept the concession which the right hon. Gentleman has offered us.
§ MR. FINCH-HATTON (Lincolnshire, Spalding)
Mr. Courtney, as a Representative of an agricultural district, I must offer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer far warmer thanks for his concession respecting Schedule D than the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down. I think the right hon. Gentleman, from what he stated in his speech, sympathizes far more widely and deeply in the depressed condition of the agricultural interest than even that concession would lead us to suppose; because he announced that the time had come, or was shortly coming, when the whole question of the taxation of agricultural property would have to be considered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that under their Local Government scheme personal property would have to bear its fair share of local taxation. I think that everyone in this House will congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the fact that he has been able, by an ingenuity which is, I think, unparalleled, to lay under contribution in this Budget an element which I believe has escaped the vigilance of all other Chancellors of the Exchequer—I mean the element of water. The right hon. Gentleman has thus been able to offer a great been to the working classes of the country, and one which I know they will appreciate. He has been able to provide them with a stronger glass of beer, and also with better tobacco to smoke. At the same time he will reconcile two interests which have never before been harmonized, because, by a curious coincidence, the teetotallers, who will probably disapprove of both results 1539 will thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having made choice of the element they favour in order to bring those results about. The right ton. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), in dealing with the question of rates, made a statement which I rose immediately to reply to, but which I was glad the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose at the same time to answer, because he was able to do so much better than I could have done. But I may supplement what my right hon. Friend said by a remark which I think is called for—namely, that although it may, perhaps, be true, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite said, that county rates have only increased by 11 per cent, whilst rates in towns have increased by a much larger percentage, the ratio at which the value of property has increased is very much greater in towns than in the country. In fact, the great difficulty and danger of the agricultural problem is that, while other property has increased in value, agricultural property has actually decreased in value. The great question arising on this Budget is, I think, whether or not the Chancellor of the Exchequer was justified in partly suspending that fund which we have allocated, hitherto with praiseworthy regularity, to the reduction of the National Debt? I understand the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be that there are times when it is necessary, in the interests of the community, to remit taxation, in order to produce what I may call that elasticity with regard to Revenue which will bring us back to the point at which the normal repayment of Debt can be resumed. In the same way, a prudent landowner might make a practice of devoting part of the revenues of his estate to the gradual extinction of the mortgages with which it was burdened; but when it came to a question of whether he should, in a particular year, adhere to that practice, or spend a sufficient amount of money to keep the estate going, he would say—"I will keep the estate going, so that I may be in a better position in future years to pay off the mortgages." That is the position, I think, which the right hon. Gentleman takes upon this question. I should like to ask the right 1540 hon. Gentleman one question with regard to the very interesting proposal he made—that Companies should pay 1s. for each £100 of Stock, in lieu of the transfer money now exacted from their shareholders. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the fact that a great many Companies do not call up the whole of their share capital, he means that the 1s. shall apply to the whole of the share capital of a Company, or only to so much of it as is called up? I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's answer on this subject will make a great difference as to the point of view from which his proposals will be reviewed. With regard to the question of the profits calculated under Schedules D and B, the Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned a fact which is within my own knowledge—namely, that it is very seldom that farmers keep good enough accounts to satisfy the Revenue as to whether or not they are making the profits which they are alleged to make. I think it would assist farmers very considerably if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or some other Gentleman on the Treasury Bench, would shortly state under what main headings the Government would like farmers to show the accounts of their revenue. The question is a difficult one, but I think they should know that, in order that they may obtain the full benefit of the remission which the Chancellor of the Exchequer wishes they should have. I am not quite certain whether the right hon. Gentleman gave us in his Estimate the amount which he expects the Revenue to lose from this change, or, in other words, whether he stated the amount which the farmers would gain. I would ask him whether he can let us know what the amount will be? These, then, are two practical questions which I wish to put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think there is some further credit due to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the separation of the local loans from other accounts. This is a point which I do not think has yet been mentioned in the discussion. It appears to me to be a most apposite proposal, at this particular time, when we are about to entrust greatly enlarged powers to local authorities, that the country should be able to draw a distinction between local 1541 and Imperial funds. Unless some such proposal be adopted we should very soon get into a complication of accounts compared with which the facts stated by the right hon. Gentleman would be of small magnitude indeed. I think, therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done a real service to the country in separating those funds. I should like to say one word, as an independent Member, on the question of economy in the Naval and Military Services. It appears to me that, in the speech which the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) delivered in this House, he stated the undoubted truth when he said that economy ought to be combined with efficiency; but he did not indicate one single item in which the Estimates could be reduced without sacrificing efficiency to economy. The only point in which, as far as I could gather, the noble Lord desired that the Estimates should be reduced was in regard to coaling stations. Now, Sir, I do protest against anything being done by this House which would have the effect of rendering less secure the coaling stations, which are, as it were, the only stepping-stones upon which your war vessels can cross the ocean to the help of your Colonies in times of war. I should like to see some part of the surplus asked for by the Admiralty in order to strengthen the coaling stations. Although we all agree that economy and efficiency are admirable things, I do hope that those Gentlemen who criticize the Estimates in this House will show us how we can have the one without sacrificing the other. One suggestion was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) as to an economy which might be practised in regard to the £5,000,000 a-year we are now spending on Non-Effective Services in connection with the Army. But I would point out that the arrangement under which this £5,000,000 has grown up proceeded from right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench; and, therefore, we must leave them to settle among themselves the policy which dictated it. If I remember aright, it is the short-service system that has retired so many officers whilst in the prime of life, and has left upon the country the pensions 1542 which hon. Gentlemen opposite so much object to. Except on these points, there has not been a single direction pointed out in which these Estimates can be reduced.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I will just reply to the question which the hon. Member has put to me. The 1s. will be levied upon the paid-up capital of Companies. I must apologize to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) for not having answered the question he put to me with regard to the simplification of the accounts. That is a matter to which I will give my closest attention. I admit that the accounts are not as well understood as they ought to be, and if I can simplify them I shall be very willing to do so. As to the question that has been asked respecting the proposal made with regard to Schedule D, it appears to me that Chambers of Agriculture and those who are conversant with these subjects will be able to render considerable assistance in that matter.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
In deference to the interests of the people of India, I have to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will be pleased to consider favourably the remiss-ion of the duty on the silver work imported from India to England? I am aware that this matter has been, in former discussions, mixed up with the question of hall-marking. But I do not wish so to mix it up. Personally, I am in favour of the system of hall-marking, as insuring public confidence in the articles so marked. But if this process is found to be too rough for the delicate silver fabrics of India, then some other mechanism can be found for assaying the purity and quality of these fabrics. Sir, the remission of this duty was proposed by a Committee of this House in 1879. It was mentioned in the Budget Speech of 1881. A more recent discussion took place in this House in May, 1884. On that occasion the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) spoke as follows:—He wished to bring a little friendly pressure to bear upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to this subject…It Was admitted on all hands that this tax ought to he abolished. The Government themselves had in three successive years proposed to abolish it. The only reason that it existed appeared to be 1543 the difficulty of dealing with the question of drawback. If, as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Slagg) stated, £100,000 could settle this matter, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, he thought, be delighted to settle it on those terms."—(3 Hansard,  463–4,)Now, Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman has become Under Secretary of State for India. I hope he will exercise his benign influence in the direction indicated by him in 1834. I know that £100,000 may not cover, perhaps, the whole amount of drawback that would have to be allowed. This drawback is, in fact, a refund of the duty which would have to be allowed in the event of the duty being remitted. Otherwise, the unsold silver which had paid duty would be placed at a disadvantage in competition with the silver which, by the remission of duty, would be excused from payment. Still, the drawback would not be allowed to every holder, nor to all silver; but only to silver duty-paid and unsold at the time in the stores of the silver merchants. On this point, in May, 1884, the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney)—of whom I desire to speak with special respect in your presence, and who was then Secretary to the Treasury—made a useful suggestion which I will quote, to the effect—That some understanding should he arrived at with the big dealers in gold and silver plate as to the terms on which their claims for drawback could reasonably be mot."—(Ibid. 470.)Sir, I am sure that in that way the question may be arranged with great satisfaction to the importers, and with justice to the claims of India, for which four main reasons may, in brief, be adduced. First, this silver work is a manufacture of extraordinary beauty, which, if unfettered, may attain great popularity in England. Secondly, the trade between India and England has, on the one hand, stimulated the exportation of raw produce, but has extinguished many of the ancient Indian manufactures. I cannot complain of this process of trade and industry; but I urge it as a reason why we should maintain, so far as we fairly can, those characteristic and interesting manufactures which still remain. Thirdly, India has been generous to British interests in remitting all duties on the importation of British manufactures. And, fourthly, this Indian silver work does not compete with any articles 1544 manufactured in England; but if allowed a fair field, without any fiscal burden, it will make its way in England and hold its own there.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I think that as it is getting late it will be a great convenience to the Committee if some Member of the Government will tell us on what day the debate will be resumed, as the Committee will be anxious to make their arrangements. Will it be taken on Monday; and, if not, what Business will be taken on that day?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I think, Sir, it will be more convenient if I state to-morrow afternoon, at half-past 4, what Business will be taken on Monday. It had been intended to take Supply on Monday; but if it should be more convenient to the Committee generally that the Budget Resolutions should be agreed to on Monday I should wish to meet those views.
In reply to my hon. Friend behind me (Sir Richard Temple), I may say that two days ago, if he had raised this question, I should have told him that I was going to deal with the matter in my Budget, and that I was going to make a proposal which I thought was favourable to the introduction of Indian silver into this country. At the last moment, however, a difficulty arose which prevented me from doing so. If I should see my way to deal with the subject I will certainly do so.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S. W., Ince)
I am sorry, Mr. Courtney, to detain the Committee at this late hour; but I think that the statement which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) as to the increase of the normal expenditure on the Army and Navy should not pass unchallenged. I consider that when this subject is dealt with the Committee ought to be furnished with the normal expenditure per head of the population, instead of being referred, as we always are, to bygone days, when the population was far less than it is now, and when the needs of the country were also far less. The reason why I ask whether the normal expenditure has increased is this—it is very difficult for anyone to find out exactly what is the normal ex- 1545 penditure. But, at the end of 1883, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), in a speech he made at Pontefract, boasted that he had saved '2s. l1d. per head of the population in that expenditure since 1870. The right hon. Gentleman's contention, therefore, amounted to this—that between 1870 and 1883 the normal expenditure of the country upon the Naval and Military Forces had declined by that amount. Various circumstances have occurred since 1883. The Forces in India have had to be increased by 10,000 men, on account of a changed state of conditions on the frontier, and there has been considerable expenditure in Egypt. I contend, however, that it has yet to be proved that the really normal expenditure of the Army and Navy—estimated as I have contended it ought to be estimated—has increased, and I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will state, in the next debate on the subject of Army and Navy expenditure, if that is the case or not?
Question put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the Duties of Customs now chargeable on Tea shall continue to be levied and charged on and after the first day of August, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven, until the first day of August, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-eight, on the importation thereof into Great Britain or Ireland (that is to say): on
Tea.. the pound. Sixpence.
§ MR. HENEY H. FOWLER
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will print a statement respecting his Budget scheme.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.