§ Postponed Clause 4.
§ *(2.50.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I beg to move, in postponed Clause No. 4, page 2, line 9, after "ninety," to insert "until the first day of April, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-one." The object of the Amendment is to provide that the new tax to be placed upon spirits should only be imposed for a period of 12 months. By Clause 2 of the Bill the Tea Duty is only imposed for a period of 12 months, and by Clause 22 the Income Tax also is only imposed for one year. I presume the Committee are aware of the reasons why the taxation of the year is made annual and not permanent. It involves a Constitutional principle. The present mode of dealing with our Customs and Inland Revenue is by an annual Bill, that practice having been settled in consequence of the dispute between the two Houses when the Paper Duty was repealed. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to put the new duty on the same footing as the Tea Duty and the Income Tax, on the ground that by so doing he will not interfere with the annual control of the House of Commons over the taxation of the year. I am aware that a considerable portion of the Revenue is of a permanent character. There are a large number of taxes which form part of our regular fiscal system which are not voted annually, but this House has always reserved to itself the control over a certain portion of the annual supply in order to secure its control over the annual expenditure. That this is the Constitutional practice is shown by what was said by Mr. 1124 Disraeli in I860, who, referring to Lord Palmerston's acknowledgment of the importance and absolute necessity of the House of Commons exercising a due and effective control over the annual taxation of the country, said that there was not only Constitutional Liberals, but commercial Liberals—the Constitutional Liberals were desirous of retaining the control over the annual Revenue of the country, whereas the commercial Liberals wished to exercise such a pressure upon the Minister of the day, that for commercial purposes the control of the House over its annual taxation was lost. Now, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, if anything, is a Constitutional Liberal. I think he will not repudiate that title, and I appeal to him to maintain the control of this House over the taxation of the country. The question underlying this point is the exclusive jurisdiction of the House over the annual taxation of the country. The result of this Bill will be to give to the House of Lords a co-ordinate jurisdiction with the House of Commons over taxation, and against that I wish to protest. Lord J. Russell, in the same Debate, said that if the House of Lords was to be admitted to partnership with the House of Commons the finances of the country might be thrown into utter confusion, and he added that the effect of making a proposed tax a permanent addition to the taxation of the country was that without the concurrence of the House of Lords you could neither deal with the tax which was to be imposed nor with the application of it. In this way the House of Commons would altogether lose its control over the taxation of the country, because no alteration could be effected without legislation, to which the House of Lords must be a party. The other night the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), in speaking upon this subject, alluded to the old custom of one of the Money Bills not being passed until a late period of the Session, in order that the House of Commons might keep its control. Now we have the whole taxation put into one Bill, and at present we have only two great annual taxes, namely, the Tea Duty and the Income Tax, and this year we are going materially to reduce the Tea Duty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that the tipplers are to relieve 1125 the consumers of tea, but we are going to sacrifice £1,500,000 of the Tea Duty. What the Amendment proposes is that the sum of £1,300,000, which is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer called the tipplers' relief to the consumers of tea, should be put in the same position, in no better and no worse position than the duty on tea. It ought to be an annual tax voted by the House; it ought to be subject to the control of the House, and in that way the House would maintain its exclusive jurisdiction over taxation. That is the Constitutional aspect, but there is also a practical, financial aspect of the matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer invites us to make a great financial experiment, and he assumes that an increase of the Spirit Duties is certain to be followed by a corresponding increase of revenue; but he has adduced no facts in support of that assumption; and all the evidence goes to show that there is a certain high-water mark beyond which increase of duties produces illicit distillation, and the revenue suffers. I do not say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is wrong; but, at any rate, it is only an experimental view, and he has no authority for the position he has taken. All the authorities go the other way. In 1819 the duties on spirits reached 11s. 8¼d., which was the highest point they ever reached. And what followed? The revenue, instead of increasing, diminished. In 1823 Mr. Huskisson took the matter in hand. He reduced the Scotch Duty from 6s. 2d. to 2s. 5d., the Irish Duty from 5s. 7d. to 2s. 5d., and the English Duty from 11s. 8¼d. to 7s. The revenue immediately increased. In 1860 the Spirit Duties reached 10s., at which point they have practically remained ever since. But in the interval between 1825, when Mr. Huskisson dealt with the matter, and 1860, when the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian placed the taxation on its present level, the result of the increase of the Spirit Duty, as shown in the valuable work on Finance by my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. S. Buxton), was a falling off of the revenue. In 1858, instead of the £500,000 expected, only £70,000 was received; and in 1860, instead of an additional £600,000 from British spirits, there was an actual diminution of revenue to the extent of £550,000. It 1126 was not until four years later that the Chancellor of the Exchequer succeeded in raising the additional amount of revenue he had calculated upon in I860. I do not say that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer is not right in anticipating the large sum he has mentioned; but on Constitutional, as well as on financial, grounds I maintain that the tax should be limited to one year. A third peculiarity of the present proposal is that it is a tax for a new purpose, and not for the National Expenditure of the year. There has been no estimate laid before the House showing that the Imperial taxation requires it. There is reason to complain of the delay in furnishing the House with information bearing upon; this point; and the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian was obliged to speak the other night without having seen a Return which had been distributed that morning. How much money in aid up to the present time has been paid to the Local Authorities? What has been the result of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposals of 1888 and 1889?
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I stated it in the. Budget speech.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
Only the sum then paid. Before the House is asked to increase the subventions which were given two years back we are entitled to know what amount these subventions; have reached and how they have been apportioned between the counties and the boroughs. I raise for the moment no question of the goodness or badness of the tax or of the justice or injustice of the appropriation; but the whole scheme; is a huge experiment, and, therefore, I move my Amendment limiting the tax to 12 months.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 9, after the word "ninety," to insert the words "until the first day of April one thousand eight hundred and ninety-one,"—(Mr. Henry H. Fowler.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words: be there inserted."
§ (3.20.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I think the Committee are extremely indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). I greatly regret that the. Chancellor of the Exchequer refused to 1127 accept the offer made to him last night to take these postponed clauses out of the Bill and put them in the Bill which is to follow. The House is asked to enter upon an entirely novel course, and nothing is known of how the taxes proposed will be administered, or, so far as Ireland is concerned, whether Local Government will ever be established there at all. It is monstrous to ask Irish Members to vote an additional tax on spirits—one of the principal commodities of Ireland—when it is impossible to say whether any of it will ever be devoted to the extinction of public houses. The House is asked to vote the tax for good or bad, once and for all, and without any possibility of annual revision. The Government may be driven out of Office before they pass the Local Government Bill for Ireland, or they may change their minds about the introduction of such a measure at all. Nevertheless, this tax will have been voted beyond review or recall. The well-known liberal views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the extension of Local Government to Ireland may be smothered by his own Cabinet; yet he asks us to vote this Bill on the faith of getting Local Government for Ireland. He asks us to give a blank cheque to Lord Salisbury in the shape of an additional sixpence on Irish whisky. Good and generous and democratic as the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman may be, it must be remembered that he has a Cabinet acting with him who may out-vole him, and there may be no extinction of public houses in Ireland at all. As a matter of fact, we are discussing this measure handcuffed and with our tongues tied. English Members have less ground for complaint. They have already got their Local Government, whereas the Irish people may have neither the one nor the other. They may never get Local Government, but, at the same time, they will have to pay this tax. Is it unreasonable, then, to ask that next year we should have an opportunity of again criticising the proposals of the Government? I certainly cannot see what object the Government propose to gain by refusing to have a review of the matter next year. I object in the strongest way not only to the proposals of the Government, but to the mode in which they are carrying 1128 them out. I dispute their good intentions, and challenge their bona fides. With regard to the question of taxation, which is one of the fundamental questions with which Members of Parliament have to deal, we ought to have an opportunity of re-considering our position and the circumstances of the country in the same way as in the case of other matters, for which we annually pass Continuance Bills. I do not know what argument the Government can allege on this one point unless it be the old argument that we must have confidence in the Government, which simply amounts to this: "Open your mouth and shut your eyes and see what the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give you." I am glad to notice that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone has at last taken his proper place in this House [the hon. Member (Mr. T. W. Russell) was at this moment sitting on one of the Ministerial Benches], but I think that even he will agree with me in asking that the Government should afford us next year some means of reviewing their fiscal policy with regard to Ireland. It has already been stated that shortly after the great war the English people had to pay the enormous duty of 11s. 8d. per gallon on spirits. That is the highest fiscal tax ever imposed on this country, and I am glad to say we never had it to pay in Ireland; but now the Government are seeking to impose upon us, not for Imperial, but for local purposes, the heaviest tax ever placed upon what is the chief article of Irish manufacture. If the Government had imported this proposal into a Local Government Bill there might have been some reason in it; but as it is, we have no guarantee as to what will be done with the money, and next year, in all probability, we shall be in exactly the same position as we are now. The money will be gone, our whisky will still be heavily taxed, we shall still be without a Local Government Board, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer will still be Chancellor of the Exchequer, which practically will be the one point the Government will have attained.
§ *(3.35.) SIR J. M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)
My objection to the proposal of the Government is that they put upon an article, which is one of the chief products of Irish manufacture, a tax which 1129 is perfectly monstrous. This is a subject about which I know something—I have felt much interest in it for many years, and I have more than once shown that during the last 37 years the tax on proof spirits has been advanced in Ireland from 2s. 8d. to 10s. a gallon, while the Englishman pays on his own national beverage the very disproportionate tax of 1s. 10d. on its alcoholic equivalent in the vehicle of beer.
Order, order! I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that the Amendment before the Committee is a proposal to limit the tax to the year, whereas the hon. Gentleman is arguing that it should be done away with altogether.
§ *SIR J. M'KENNA
I bow, Sir, with all due respect to your ruling; but I think that in supporting an Amendment which proposes to limit the tax to one year it is not going beyond the question to urge facts which favour the limitation, although they may show that it ought not to be imposed at all. I think that that point is capable of appreciation even by the meanest intellect. I do not think that anyone will be deceived by the proposal of the Government, which simply means that Ireland shall pay, in addition to the present exorbitant duty, another 6d. for the so-called benevolent objects the Government have put forward.
§ (3.38.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I quite agree with the contention of my hon. Friend the Member for Long-ford (Mr. T. M. Healy), who has objected to the imposition of this tax for an indefinite period. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton has raised a question of great Constitutional importance, and it is one on which we are all anxious to hear the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My hon. Friend the Member for Longford has truly said we have no guarantee that the money to be raised by the Bill will be applied to any of the local purposes to which we are told it will be devoted. On the contrary, I think we have every guarantee that it will not be devoted to those local objects. Therefore, I say, we are right in resisting the imposition of this tax for a longer period of 12 months. In 12 months the Government will surely be enabled to see what will be the effect of the new taxation on beer and spirits. 1130 As my hon. Friend has put it we are asked to impose this increased taxation with our eyes blindfolded. Perhaps I may be allowed to amend the old saw he has just quoted by putting it in this form—"Shut your eyes, open your purse, and see how we will spend it. "As it is, we are in a condition of absolute uncertainty as to how this proposal will operate; and, under these circumstances, I think we are entitled to a clear explanation from the Government of the reasons why this new taxation is to be imposed. Why cannot the Government accept the Amendment limiting the tax to a period of 12 months, when, if it be found to work well, it might, as my hon. and learned Friend suggests, be carried on by means of Continuance Bills. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be wise in accepting the proposed limitation.
§ *(3.43.) MR. GOSCHEN
In reply to the observations of the hon. Member who has just spoken I would point out that he and other hon. Members are in error in thinking that in voting a tax like that now proposed they will thereby be precluded from re-opening the question at any future time. There is scarcely a tax, whatever its nature may be, that escapes attack, and with regard to which Motions are not brought forward for its repeal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, in bringing forward his Amendment, argued the question on Constitutional grounds, financial grounds, and experimental grounds. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that it was un-Constitutional to vote taxes for a longer period than one year, and that we are departing from Constitutional practice in the proposal now before the House. The right hon. Gentleman went back to the Debates of 1860 in order to justify his Constitutional objection; but he did not quote anything that has occurred since that date in support of his contention. The right hon. Gentleman will find in all these cases that the taxes have been voted in precisely the same manner as this is proposed. I am very much mistaken if my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, when he imposed a Spirit Duty, limited it to one year. That has never been the practice since the year 1860; and, so far as I have known, with the exception of the Estate Duty last year 1131 they have always been proposed precisely in the manner in which we propose to vote it this year. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fowler) wishes the old portion of the tax (10s.) to be in the ordinary form, but the 6d. over that 10s. is to be in the new form. It must be obvious that the right hon. Gentleman is forcing the doctrine of 1860 to a remarkable extent in considering in dealing with this particular tax we should be retaining the power and influence of the House of Commons over the general taxation of the country. The right hon. Gentleman did not argue it from the point of view of a particular application. He laid it down as a Constitutional duty that, having parted with a million and a half of Tea Duty, the House of Commons was to put its hand on a similar amount in order to be master of the fiscal position of the country. I think he will see that though a Constitutional it was an entirely fallacious argument. With regard to the financial effect of my proposals, I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that if there is one means more than another which would frustrate the expectations of the Government as to the amount to be realised from the tax it would be to treat it as an avowedly experimental tax. Surely the right hon. Gentleman has been long enough at the Treasury to know that if you want a tax to yield a smaller amount in a given year than it otherwise would yield you have only to hold out to the trade that it is highly likely to be reviewed again next year. We do not wish, even if we could, to deprive the House of Commons of any kind of control over this tax at all. It will be in the power of the House to vote against this tax next year. We cannot treat it as an experimental tax. Hon. Members, if they read the history of Parliament, will know that it is in the power of the House either to repeal or to diminish the tax. The whole point is that if you leave it to be supposed that a particular tax will be reviewed next year, you leave the whole trade in a state of anxiety and perturbation. Under these circumstances, I regret to say that the Government cannot accept the Amendment put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. We cannot admit his Constitutional arguments, and, as regards his financial arguments, we should be bringing about the very 1132 results which, from one point of view, he has deprecated, namely, that we should lessen the yield of the tax.
§ (3.50.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
Sir, I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should object to the proposal of my right hon. Friend. Why does he propose to make this tax for a year only? That need not disturb the equanimity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his friends. He will always get the Solicitor General and the Law Officers of the Crown to advise him that a tax for the year is only a tax for the year. Or, again, that if you grant a licence for a year, and a year only, that is a licence for ever, and it cannot be allowed to drop without full compensation. Moreover,, Sir Algernon West will go on collecting the tax as if it was a perpetual tax, because the doctrine of the Government is that to grant a licence for a single year—and why not a tax for a single year?—is a grant for ever. What Parliament says on the subject is immaterial. That is the view of the persons who administer the tax. The House of Commons may say the tax is. for one year, but the Inland Revenue will go on, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will say, I am entitled to compensation, and that compensation will be the continuance of the tax for ever. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will have the tax, no matter what limitation is placed on the tax by Parliament. If it is agreeable to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer need trouble himself about the Statutory limitations. With regard to this tax, we are not allowed to state the reason why we vote it. That is a great difficulty. It is a difficulty which was felt in the ancient Roman processions, where certain busts were more conspicuous in consequence of their absence. And the objections to the way in which this tax is to be appropriated are more conspicuous in consequence of the ruling by which we are not permitted even to. allude to them. But we cannot forget this duty is proposed for a particular purpose—a purpose of which I entirely disapprove, and which I shall oppose by every means in my power. The object for which this tax is imposed might be in itself an experiment. I will make the fictitious suggestion that a tax of this 1133 kind might be appropriated to some Local Body, who must use it for a particular purpose. For that reason I should think it would be highly desirable that the House should have an opportunity of considering whether it would perpetuate that tax. And when we talk of limiting the taxes, remember what has been done with reference to other questions, both by this House and the other House of Parliament. Remember that the House of Lords passed the Ballot Act only for a limited time in order to retain the right of review of the question at some future period. If it is conceivable that this tax is to be appropriated under any circumstances to some experimental purposes, it is highly proper that the tax should be made for a limited period and not for ever. The right hon. Gentleman has rejected the Constitutional argument. I do not see that it ought to be lightly rejected, because, after all, what is the theory of having an annual tax as well as taxes which are passed for ever? It is that the House shall compel the Government to give a certain amount of money every year over which the House of Commons keeps control. Why should you diminish that fund? If you are depleting it in one direction you should fill it up in another. The taxes which up to this time have been kept in our hands, for the purpose of maintaining the control of the House of Commons, are diminishing in proportion to the whole Revenue of the country. I cannot see on what possible ground this objection can be sustained to limiting this tax. Sir, I shall certainly vote for this Amendment on that ground, and upon the ground also that I entirely disapprove of the objects to which this tax is to be applied. Of course, we shall have an opportunity of voting on the amount of the tax. Those who approve of portions of the tax must vote for its diminution by an amount which would cover the part to which they object. Though we are precluded from discussing the objects to which the tax is to be applied, I, for one, shall take advantage of every opportunity of resisting a tax which I believe is to be devoted to purposes of which I disapprove.
§ (4.0.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out how hampered 1134 we are because the Government in this Bill have mixed up two things which ought to be separate, and I must say the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton is one which merits somewhat better and fuller treatment than it received at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. To some extent I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. So far as the Constitutional question is concerned, involving the power of the House of Lords, I think we need not trouble ourselves about it, because, although the House of Lords are obstructive in many matters they are hardly likely in the future to tax the country, or prevent a tax being taken off; but I think there is great force in the remark of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton that this House ought to have every year the opportunity of voting a very considerable amount of the public taxation, in order, if necessary, to curtail the expenditure for which the taxation is voted. Unless there is this annual opportunity the House will have very little means of discussing the taxation of the country, except on occasions when a considerable number of alterations are made, as is the case this year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said this is an absurd Amendment, as it only proposes to make annual a small proportion of the whole taxation; but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he himself has made this small proportion a special tax. It is because he has put it on a special ground, and applied it to a certain special purpose, to which many of us on this side of the House strongly object, that we think it right and fair that that small proportion of the taxation of the country should be put on a special basis and made an annual tax. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's argument that the whole of the great trade affected and the Revenue derived from it would be disturbed by this small proportion of the taxation being voted annually has much foundation in fact. I doubt if this taxation will be permanent whatever it is applied to, although when the Chancellor of the Exchequer says there is nothing to prevent the subject being raised every year, and a decision being taken as to whether the tax should continue, I 1135 would reply that, as everybody knows, it is idle for a private Member to attempt to interfere with the taxation of the nation, except on the Budget Bill. Only once or twice in the whole history of this House has such an attempt been successful. Should a private Member raise a discussion on the subject of taxation before the Budget he would be told that it was premature to go into such matters, and the Government would decline debate, and should he wait until after the Budget he would be told: "Oh! you are too late, as the Government have decided upon their financial policy for the year." We object to the proposal to make this particular taxation permanent. I, for one, do not object to increased duties on spirits and beer, but I do object to the way in which the tax has been mixed up with a lot of other subjects. We object to the allocation of the tax, and we say that as it is thoroughly an experimental matter we are entitled to ask that, instead of its being made a permanent part of our fiscal system, and of our local finance, it should be voted annually, so as to give the House an opportunity of revising it, and—if it feels that this very wrong system of mixing up local and Imperial taxation should be put an end to—of abolishing it without having to introduce a special Bill.
§ (4.6.) MR. T. M. HEALY
Considering that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is probably the ablest Gentlemen who sits on the Conservative side, I am surprissd at the reply he has given. He said, "I admit your whole case." ["No, no."] Well, I am putting it in my own way. He said, "I admit your whole case; but you have a remedy, for next year you can bring in a Bill to repeal the section." This is his argument. "I admit you have this grievance; I admit we never intend to give Ireland Local Government, and that you will never have a chance of extinguishing public house licences in Ireland; but you will be able to revise this tax by bringing in a repeal clause." Is that the policy pursued by the Tory Party themselves? Why, when the Lease holders Clauses were going through Parliament they limited them to two years. They did not say:" We will give the leaseholders this right for ever, but if we find there is reason for it 1136 we will bring in a repeal clause next year." And when the Labourers' Act was going through the House of Lords why did they limit it to three years? Why did they put 10 years in the Ballot Bill? Why did they not rely upon repeal clauses? Because they wished to have a more effectual instrument, and yet the Government ask us to relinquish that instrument—the principal instrument of the Tory Party. That is. the way in which the House of Lords endeavours to bring reactionary pressure to bear upon the House of Commons. It arranges to bring these matters under discussion mechanically, by the procession of the equinoxes and annual meetings of Parliament. That is the Tory plan. It was you who invented it. You are the patentee of it—the right hon. Gentleman opposite is the successor in title to the patent rights of it, and yet, what does he offer us? Not the benefit of his own patent, but he says "You must take the initiative." We may do that—we may propose a repealing clause, and in will walk the First Lord of the Treasury to move the Closure—by the way, I am glad the right hon. Gentlemen is absent for a moment, for we can feel safe and know that we can speak a sentence without the Closure. To tell us that we can bring in a repealing clause next year is unworthy of the genius of the right hon. Gentleman, and the fact of his using such an argument shows that he has no argument whatever to bring forward. Let us have an answer to our case. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has given us none. The way to deal with our case is not to say "I admit all you say, but you have your repealing clause." Will the Government give us some guarantee that this money will be expended in Ireland in the same way that it is to be expended in England and Scotland? We know how-it is to be spent in England and Scotland and can talk about it, but so far as Ireland is concerned, a padlock is to be put on a considerable portion of it. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us a statement on the subject? He is now by himself on the Treasury Bench, uncontrolled by any other Members of the Cabinet, and now, as a Liberal Unionist, he can express his mind on the question of Local Government for Ireland without Conservative discount. We would accept 1137 a statement from him conveying the ordinary information that Englishmen and Scotchmen expect to get when a proposal as important as this is before the House.
§ (4.14.) MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
It would be difficult to exaggerate the inconvenience of the proposal the Government are making in asking the Committee to pass this tax. In 1888, when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was making his proposal to relieve the county rates at the cost of the Imperial Exchequer, he said—I ought to add that I propose to introduce the horse tax and the wheel tax in a separate Bill, because they do not really affect the Imperial Budget at all.That is the course which commended itself to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1888, and I venture to submit to the Committee that it is the course he ought to adopt on the present occasion. We are asked to grant an increase of 6d. in the Customs Duty on spirits, and, personally, as an Irish Member I should have no objection to the tax if the money were required for a good purpose. I should not care if the duty on foreign spirits were increased 6s. or 7s., but I object to the clause which would increase the tax on home spirits, and I think it a most extraordinary thing to make the Committee vote a tax in an Imperial Budget which is not to be used for Imperial purposes.
The Amendment before the Committee is an Amendment limiting the tax for one year, and the observations of the hon. Member are hardly germane to that or to the subject of the clause.
§ (4.16.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
It is immaterial to me, as representing a constituency in this House, whether the tax on spirits is (id., 6s., or £6, but I do strongly object to the proposal of the Government, on certain grounds, and, therefore, I heartily support the Amendment. In my opinion all taxation ought to be limited to one year—that is to say, we should not be put to the necessity of bringing in repeal clauses, but power should always be reserved to the representatives of the people to continue the taxes, which is a more simple and 1138 easy process. The Income Tax was originally a temporary expedient, but it has been continued for so many years that now it has come to be regarded altogether as a permanent form of taxation. It has been impossible to get rid of the tax, despite this power of moving repeal clauses, and this shows how ridiculous it is to suppose that if this extra 6d. on spirits is once granted it will ever be got rid of. But on broad Constitutional grounds we have a right to oppose this proposal on account of the way in which it is put before us. Our tongues are tied as to the object to which it is intended to devote the tax, although everybody knows what that object is. The manner in which the question is submitted to the House is as specimen of political dodgery which I hope we may never be doomed to witness in this House again. There was nothing said in the Bill we passed last night as to the form of this taxation. There is nothing whatever said in this Bill as to the licences, and it is very well understood that a portion, at any rate, of the taxation with which we are now dealing is intended to be applied in extinction of licences. This crooked method of dealing with the taxation of the country is, I may say, characteristic of the crooked behaviour of the Government in everything they have undertaken. The Government insist on making this a permanent tax. They seem to consider that they have a permanent tenure of that Bench. I think that the result of the elections which will shortly take place, will disabuse them of that idea, and that their successors in Office will rapidly put. an end to whatever element of permanence there may be in taxation of this kind. We have heard of consumptive patients being endowed with a longing for, and a belief in, the extension of life, and the consumptive occupants of the Treasury Bench seem to be possessed of a similar insane hope that their lives may be indefinitely prolonged. I support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, because it seems to me to be the best expedient we can adopt for staving off what we regard as a grave evil. I object to the proposal of the Government on another ground. As they are going to impose this taxation on the people of Ireland without granting 1139 them that redress in the form of local institutions which they have every right to demand, and which we hope ere long to be able to grant them, it is all humbug for us to talk about "freely and voluntarily" resolving to give these supplies. If they are given at all, they are wrung from us. I see, Mr. Courtney, you are shaking your head, and, as I do not wish to put you to the trouble of rising, I will postpone the further observations I have to make on this portion of the subject until we come to discuss the Preamble. As there will be other opportunities of expressing ourselves on this political scheme of ducks and drakes, which is so characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I will only say, in the words of the Anti-Jacobin's Friend of Humanity to the needy knife grinder: "I give thee sixpence? No, I'll see thee damned first."
(4.25.) MR. LABOCOHERE (Northampton)
My right hon. Friend (Mr. H. H. Fowler) asks that this tax should only be imposed for one year. If his proposition be rejected, and the tax be imposed by Act of Parliament, we, as the guardians of the public purse, entirely part with our right to say when it is to cease. An Act of Parliament must receive the assent of the House of Lords. At the next General Election, every man in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, may be opposed to this tax, with the exception of 600 hereditary legislators; there may be a majority in this House against the tax, and yet it will continue unless the House of Lords agrees to its discontinuance. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says there is already a tax of 10s. per gallon on whisky, and that he is only applying 'to the extra 6d. the system which is adopted in regard to the 10s. I am only sorry that that system has been applied to the 10s.; but, if we have not taken care of the pounds, there is no reason why we should not take care of the pence. The question is, "Are we to part with the control of this tax, or not?" I say our duty to our constituents obliges us to decline to part with it, and I hope we shall this evening establish a precedent for annual taxes being only imposed annually.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I have no wish to be discourteous to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I could not enter into the hon. Member's arguments without transgressing the ruling of the Chair. The hon. and learned Member will have further opportunities of discussing the application of this measure to Ireland. MR. T. M. HEALY: When?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It is not in the other Bill. There is no provision whatever in regard to Irish licences in the other Bill.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
But Irish licences are not the only things in point. There are other provisions respecting Ireland in the other Bill. The Government will consider the suggestion, with every desire to accept it, that Corporations in Ireland should deal with licences in the same manner as Local Authorities deal with them in England.
§ (4.30.) MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not quite correctly stated what was proposed as to the increase of the duties in 1885. In the case of the Beer Duty, an appeal was made to me only to enact the increase for one year, and I complied with that request. I do hope that, after the strong appeal which has been made by my right hon. Friend (Mr. H. H. Fowler) and other Members, the Government will allow this provision to be only for one year. That will be very much more in accordance with precedent than the proposal of the Government.
§ (4.33.) MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I think that the attitude of the Government, having regard to the history of this question, is a particularly mean one. I exempt the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) personally from this censure, but I do not exempt several of his leading Colleagues, and especially not the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour). In 1885 the leading Ministers canvassed us personally for our votes in the Lobbies of this House on a question precisely similar to this. It was a proposal by the then Liberal Government to increase the Spirit Duties, and we were canvassed for our votes against that Government on the ground that this was an unjust proposal to Ireland. Now that the present Government have got into Office, as a 1141 consequence of our assistance, they propose to inflict precisely the same injustice. There is a well recognised custom that one Government is bound by the acts of its predecessors; but it seems to be true that no obligation of honour is incumbent upon an English Government in its dealings with Ireland and in its conversations with Irish Members. We are told that some day or other this money will be handed over to the Irish Local Boards, which are to be established, I suppose, when pigs begin to fly. I have been hearing of the imminence of the establishment of the Irish Local Government for the last 15 years, and it has not come any nearer. I do not believe—although it may seem like a bull—that it is as near to-day, as far as the action of the House goes, as it was 15 years ago. I do not believe an Imperial Government is ever destined to pass a Local Government Bill for Ireland. You came into Office in 1885 upon the leading cry of the establishment of Irish Local Government, and after more than three years of Office the subject is still relegated to the dim and distant future. What guarantee have we got that just as the pledged word of leading Cabinet Ministers, given to us in 1885, that the increase of the Spirit Duty in Ireland was an injustice, has been broken to-day, the word of the -right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when the time comes for the redemption of his promise to the House, will not be broken by his successor? We have no guarantee, and it would be absurd for us to rely on the lasting character and binding force of any statements made by any English Minister with regard to Irish Members beyond the day after tomorrow.
§ MR. PARNELL
I allude to the declaration which a Cabinet Minister—a gentleman who now sits beside the right hon. Gentleman—made to us in 1885, as a consideration for our votes, that the increase of the Spirit Duty was a gross injustice to Ireland. The same right hon. Gentleman is now going to support this injustice to Ireland. This money is going to be passed to what is called an account. There are many purposes in Ireland to which this money might be devoted, purposes of great 1142 utility, and for the benefit of the people, purposes which would not excite any controversy in the House. The amount paid per head by the Irish people vastly exceeds the amount paid per head by Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen; and we, the poor country, are not to be allowed to have the immediate benefit of the taxation. We are told it will be given to us some time or other, when Local Government Boards are established in Ireland. The imposition of extra taxation on whisky or spirits in Ireland is a fraud upon the tax-paying portion of the community. The plea that it is going to promote temperance is absurd. I am convinced that one of the great causes of drunkenness in Ireland, leading to crime and disaster in that country, is the excessive tax upon alcohol. The necessity arises, as a conssquence of its high price, to dilute it with foreign spirit of a most pernicious and maddening character.
Order! I must point out to the hon. Member that the question now before the Committee is the limitation of the taxation to one year. The hon. Member's observations are directed against the clause as a whole.
§ MR. PARNELL
I understand perfectly that I have probably exceeded the limits of proper criticism upon this particular Amendment, and I will not continue that line of argument, though I am sure you will pardon me if I point out that, after all, the matter is a question of degree. I will only add that I think we have established a strong claim for the consideration of this Amendment, and that when the time comes to discuss Amendments following this one, more immediately applying to Ireland, I hope we shall have some more satisfactory declaration from Her Majesty's Government than we have had up to the present.
§ (4.45.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
The hon. Gentleman has made certain observations that did not strike me as being particularly relevant, but directed personally against myself. He said a Cabinet Minister—
§ MR. PARNELL
I did not allude to the right hon. Gentleman as being that Cabinet Minister. I alluded to the right hon. Gentleman as being one of those who took part in the combination with us to throw out the Government.
(4.46.) MR. T. M. HBALY
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has, I admit with considerable courtesy, answered one point I made as to the allocation of the money, but ho has not dealt with another. As I understand your ruling, Sir, we were debarred from discussing the allocation of this money on the last Amendment on the ground that the matter is dealt with in a separate Bill. I understand that ruling as regards England and Scotland; but, as regards Ireland, I submit the ruling cannot apply, because Ireland is not within the licensing scope of the Bill. The Government say that if we allow the Bill to pass they will not allocate the money as regards so much as can be spent by the 11 great Corporations—Dublin, Belfast, Limerick, Galway, Wexford, Cork, Waterford, Derry, and others. Are you going to divide the money into two chests, a chest for the towns and a chest for the country? We must press on the Government the reasonableness of the suggestion which I made to them yesterday in all good faith. This Budget Bill is non-contentious, except so far as the Whisky Duty is concerned; and I suggest that you should take out of this Bill the foreign and exotic clauses, and put them in the Probate Duty Bill, which we can discuss. I trust the Government will relieve us from the extraordinary embarrassment in which we now find ourselves. We are told that, as regards particular Corporations in Ireland, the money is not to be allocated. How soon is the money to be unlocked with regard to the country? When are our people to get the benefit of the money? I urge the Government, who are so anxious about Constitutional ways, about following the ways of our forefathers and our grandmothers, to relieve us of the embarrassment by cutting the four clauses in question out of this Bill.
§ *(4.52.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Let me remind the Committee that machinery does not exist in Ireland for administering the money in the same way as in England. There are only three possible alternatives open to us. We may say that the money is not to accumulate, and that Ireland is not to have it at all. We may say that it shall accumulate until County Councils are established in Ire- 1144 land. Or we may say that the money shall be spent by the existing authorities. Through the mouth of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the Government have expressed their readiness, if hon. Members opposite press for it, to take advantage of the existing machinery in Ireland, so far as the Municipalities are concerned. Do hon. Gentlemen wish us to go further, and to hand over the money to the Grand Juries or to the Poor Law Authorities?
(4.54.) THE CHAIRMAN
I had better point out how the matter stands as a point of order. In this Bill there is a section for the imposition of a tax. There is a subsequent clause which divides the proceeds of the tax between England, Scotland, and Ireland in certain proportions. In another Bill provisions are made for the distribution and application of the money so divided. On this Bill it is competent to discuss the propriety of the imposition of the tax, and the equity of the division of the tax between England, Scotland, and Ireland. On the other Bill it is competent to discuss the particular purposes and objects to which the money so distributed is to be applied. And I would point out to hon. Members that if the clauses of this Bill were transferred to the other Bill, so as to make one Bill, it would be improper, on the clauses now under discussion, to anticipate what would be the result of the clauses subsequently to be discussed, namely, the clauses relating to special objects to which ultimately the money is to be applied.
§ (4.56.) MR. DILLON
After the Chairman's ruling, I ask the Government whether it would not be better to withdraw these clauses from the Budget Bill Is it not competent for the House, when called upon to vote a tax, to debate the propriety of voting the tax at all? How is it possible to discuss the advisability of raising an additional tax if hon. Members are debarred from considering how the tax is to be spent? The uncertainty of the proper administration of the tax is one of the main considerations connected with it. The Government will prevent a great waste of time by withdrawing the clauses from the Budget Bill, as the ruling of the Chairman has clearly recommended.
§ *(4.58.) MR. H. H. FOWLER
The Chairman's ruling emphasises the posi- 1145 tion we have taken up. Our condition is being reduced to one of practical absurdity. The Government wish to pass their Budget Bill, and if they withdraw from it these clauses they can get the Bill passed into law before the Whitsuntide Recess. But if they persist in bringing into one Bill what belongs to another there will be found means, notwithstanding, by which the House will be able to ascertain the object of this imposition.
§ *(4.59.) MR. GOSCHEN
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not notice that portion of the Chairman's ruling which stated that even if these clauses had been transferred to the other Bill it would have been impossible on these clauses to debate the purposes to which the money was to be devoted. Nothing is more plain, from the ruling which has been given, than that the same difficulty would have arisen even had the clauses been included in the other Bill. The prospect held out to us is conveyed in a threat that, unless we fall in with the suggestion which we have three or four times refused, we shall not get the Bill passed before Whitsuntide. We have expressed our opinion, but the right hon. Gentleman returns to the charge. We do not see our. way to change our proposals, and when the right hon. Gentleman reminds me of what happened two years ago, I would point out this further distinction, that this additional 6d. belongs to the tax upon spirits as a whole, it is essentially a Customs and Inland Revenue Tax, it naturally takes its place in this Bill, and falls within the Customs and Inland Revenue regulations for administrative purposes, it is altogether different from the Horse Tax.
§ (5.0.) MR. T. M. HEALY
What the right hon. Gentleman the. Member for Wolverhampton said had reference to the effect of your ruling, Sir. If these clauses were transferred to a separate Bill, then long before we reached them the whole question would be discussed, the principle decided, and the clauses would be readily disposed of. This is really a matter of public convenience upon which the First Lord is not usually unreasonable. If he takes the course we suggest, it is obvious that when the clauses are reached in another Bill, the whole financial question will, have been 1146 discussed, and to raise the discussion again would be flogging a dead horse. As it is now, we are naturally bubbling over with indignation which cannot find rent in discussion. We can only ramble round the subject, and such is the imperfect character of the human mind, we are tempted to hit a head wherever we see it. We object to have excluded from our consideration the object of this money, whereas if we could discuss and settle that the rest follows as mere matter of detail. Having conceded so-much we may well ask the Government to go a little farther. A week ago they agreed to the reasonable suggestion to postpone the clauses until after the Second Reading of the other Bill; what difficulty is there now in postponing them until the Committee stage is passed? It will not relax the grasp of the Government on the principle of the Bill; no one will regard this concession as a victory for the Temperance Party. We are anxious to treat the matter regularly. I trust the Government will see their way to accept the suggestion put forward in no desire to hinder or embarrass them, but simply because of the intolerable position in which we find ourselves, which is both novel and inconvenient. There is a branch of the embarrassment of our position in the remarks of the Chief Secretary. He puts to us alternatives, that we shall give this money to the existing Borough Authorities, and let the amount for the County Authorities be suspended, or that it should be handed to existing authorities, Poor Law Guardians and Grand Juries. Well, of course, he was not serious in suggesting that we should accept the Grand Juries. Take the Grand Jury for the County of Dublin, and contrast it with the Corporation in the City of Dublin, which a Committee sitting upstairs commends for its moderation and efficiency. Would it be tolerable that simply crossing the bridge we should pass from the jurisdiction of the Corporation to that of the Conservative gentlemen who represent the County Grand Jury? Before we can address ourselves to the suggestion as to Boards of Guardians, we roust have a little time for consideration. The Government are putting the cart before the horse; first, they are asking us to vote the money, and then they are going 1147 to say who it shall be voted to. It is a friendly and non-partisan suggestion that the Government should first decide upon the body to whom this fund should be entrusted, and then equip them with the financial means for discharging the duty imposed upon them. Unyoke this financial horse from its present unnatural position, and let your team proceed in proper Parliamentary fashion. We shall then get through this Committee this evening. Those who pay the piper should call the tune, but you call upon us to vote the money not having a voice in its disposal. Have the Government no plan in regard to Ireland? We do not know whether they look to Boards of Guardians or Grand Juries as the authorities.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite mistaken; the plan of the Government is perfectly definite, and if it is to be modified, it is in deference to the opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
But we have expressed no opinion, we have no opportunity to open our mouths. I have carefully guarded myself from expressing any opinion except as against Grand Juries. And yet, we have the right hon. Gentleman saying that, owing to an accident, he is unable to put before us the scheme of the Government Bill. Now, he says it is modified in deference to our opinion. You have had long experience, Sir, as Chairman; but I am sure you have never known such a "kettle of fish" as this. I appeal to the First Lord, who is always so anxious for the business of the House and the interest of the country, to get up and say he will accept this reasonable and business-like suggestion.
§ *(5.10.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
I answer the appeal by reminding the hon. Gentleman and the Committee that last week an appeal was made to the Government to postpone these clauses until the Second Reading of the other Bill. We thought that the appeal was a reasonable one, and we conceded it. At the time, however, I expressed the view that by conceding it there was an implied understanding that no obstruction should be placed in the way of the Bill. The right hon. Member 1148 for Mid Lothian said that so far as he was concerned he would be no party to what might properly be called obstruction. Well, I do not know how that phrase might be interpreted; but, for myself, I hold it to be an engagement on the part of hon. Members opposite when they asked for the postponement of these clauses that they should afterwards be considered as part of the financial proposals of the Government, when a particular period had been reached. We have reached the appointed period; the decision of the House has been given upon the other Bill. These clauses cannot now be treated in the way proposed without serious inconvenience. Taxes are being levied, and legislative sanction must be obtained. The principle of the proposals of the Government having been affirmed, we must now ask the House to pass the clauses as they stand.
§ (5.15.) SIR W. HARCOURT
I must distinctly disclaim the existence of any such implied understanding as the right hon. Gentleman has alluded to. The right hon. Member for Newcastle clearly stated that no such understanding would be given. After the Government had agreed to postpone the clauses he intimated that they would be resisted by all means in their power, and I urged the Government to transfer them to another Bill. I remember perfectly the phrase I used. I said, if you do not "the wheels of your Budget Bill will drag heavily." Not only was no such understanding accepted, but it was distinctly repudiated, and I gave distinct warning against keeping these clauses in the Budget Bill.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
My right hon. Friend spoke before and not after the circumstances to which I have alluded, because it was in answer to what the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord said at the end of the evening, which was a distinct invitation to us to give a pledge. No such invitation was extended to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, who said no more than he would not offer unreasonable opposition to these clauses. Well, the question is whether this opposition is reasonable or not. In my opinion the 1149 opposition offered is perfectly reasonable. What is the course the Government are taking? In his Budget speech the right hon. Gentleman spoke of this tax as a separate and distinct local Budget. He severed the one from the other, and the natural consequence is that there should be a separate Bill dealing with local as distinguished from Imperial taxation. The right hon. Gentleman has himself set an example by the manner in which, two years ago, he dealt with a local taxation proposal. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable that we should ask the observance of this principle. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord says the principle was decided last night. What principle? Questions are raised that had no decision last night. The Irish Members have raised, or wish to raise, questions which could not have been raised on the Second Reading, and which have not been settled by that Division. We are asked to vote something like £1,500,000, without being allowed to open our mouths as to the manner in which the money is to be applied. The House of Commons would be unworthy of all its predecessors if it allowed itself to be forced into such a position. The House of Commons has never allowed itself to be so fettered. You may talk of obstruction if you like, but depend upon it people inside and outside will thoroughly understand the grounds we take. We take our stand on this—that the Government are engineering their Bill so as to prevent the objects of the tax from being discussed—engineering it cleverly, ingeniously, and cunningly, and gagging those who wish to discuss the Bill. While they are trying to smuggle this Bill through, they put the muzzle on every man who desires to discuss the tax. We shall resist the Government to the best of our ability. That is a plain and distinct issue. You may denounce us for obstruction if you like; you are perfectly welcome, but if we can help it. the Government shall not get £1,500,000 while they are manœuvring to prevent the tax being discussed. You may use the Closure if you like. Yes, use it to take the taxpayers' money. If that does not condemn you and the Closure, I do not know what will. I invite you to put the Closure on this tax; it will be the first time it has been used for such a 1150 purpose, and I am perfectly willing to take the judgment of the country on the proceeding. Our course is perfectly clear. We shall either discuss this tax or oppose it. If we hear from the Chair that we cannot discuss it, then we must use every means to prevent it passing into law.
§ *(5.25.) MR. GOSCHEN
Allusion has been made to what happened when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), who is not now in his place, unfortunately appealed to us to postpone these clauses until after the decision of the House on the Second Reading of the Local Taxation Bill. The spirit of the arrangement made with the Member for Mid Lothian was, that if we postponed these clauses till after the other Bill had been read a second time, then the clauses would be proceeded with. ["No, no."] I am not talking of Gentlemen below the Gangway, but of the Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, who I should suppose would be bound by the spirit of that engagement. If it had been on the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian that, after the passing of the Second Reading of the other Bill, he would oppose the discus-sion of these clauses, he would have told us so in advance. In the first place, having postponed the clauses until the decision or principle has been given by the House, now you ask us to transfer these clauses to another Bill.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
Not then, but after the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had left the House. I remember perfectly well the remarks made by the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Derby and Newcastle when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was no longer in his place. I admit that an uncomfortable feeling was awakened by the language used, but I think the right hon. Gentleman would have been more candid if he had intended, after we had made our concession, to prevent discussion upon these clauses.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I cannot see how that is, when we are asked to withdraw them. We are trying in this matter to 1151 carry out our engagements, into which we were led by the Member for Mid Lothian, who induced us to withdraw the clauses at the time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby says the House is for the first time asked to vote taxes without knowing to what purpose they are to be applied. But two years ago, in a Bill which handed over a portion of the Probate Duties, we had a precedent for what is now being done.
That does not touch the principle. The principle is the application of money raised by the Budget Bill to purposes which are not mentioned in the Budget Bill. That is the principle on which we are proceeding, and the precedent I have mentioned shows that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Harcourt) is wrong in saying that there is any Constitutional innovation in our present proceeding. I hope, looking at what has occurred, the Committee will not take the extreme course to which the right hon. Gentleman invites hon. Members. I think we have carried out our part of the bargain. It is said a gag has been applied, but, at all events, it has not been very effective, for one way and another there has been a considerable amount of discussion. The object in view in the postponement of the clauses was that we might settle in the first instance whether the proposal is a reasonable one. The principle has been accepted, and now I hope it may proceed in the manner we were encouraged to do after the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ (5.30.) MR. PARNELL
Whatever force there might have been in the contention of the right hon. Gentleman that hopes were held out from the Front Opposition Bench that these clauses would be proceeded with after the Second Reading of the other Bill, that force has been entirely destroyed by the declaration which the right hon. Gentleman and the Chief Secretary have made to-day with regard to the application of a part of this money to Irish purposes. What was our position with regard to these Resolutions? Up to the date of these declarations we have been forbidden to discuss these Resolutions with regard to their application to Ireland at all, either 1152 on the present Bill or on the previous Bill, the Second Reading of which was passed last night. As a matter of fact, no Irish Member spoke in the discussion of last night; we should have been most properly and justly ruled out of order if we had introduced Irish grievances in the discussion of last night, because the Bill did not relate to Ireland so far as this particular branch of the subject is concerned, namely, the granting of this money to the Local Authority to be hereafter established for the purpose of buying out certain publicans. To-day the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Colleague the Chief Secretary have said they will endeavour to devise some plan by which the money reserved hereafter for Ireland may be immediately spent. Now, again, we are in the same predicament; we cannot discuss the question of the application of this money for Irish purposes on these clauses; neither can we discuss it upon the other Bill, as there will be nothing in it when it comes on. Surely common sense should suggest to the Government the proper course to pursue in view of their own declaration's.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am sorry to interrupt the … hon. Member, but he is entirely mistaken. From the beginning the Government have said that the plan embodied [in the Bill, which does refer to Ireland, was that the money should accumulate until it could be handed over to Local Authorities.
§ *MR A. J. BALFOUR
An appeal was made to the Government to modify that plan in favour of existing Municipal Authorities, and, in order to meet what the Chancellor of the Exchequer believed was the wish of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the right hon. Gentleman said he would consider that appeal in a favourable spirit.
§ MR. PARNELL
Surely the right hon. Gentleman must see that, having made that proposal, not out of regard for our desires, but out of regard for the wishes and feelings of the Orange publicans of Belfast—
§ MR. PARNELL
The right hon. Gentleman must surely see it is abso- 1153 lutely necessary that, before we go on with the discussion on the allocation of this money under the present clauses, we should know what is to be done with the money, and we should see the clauses of the Government.
§ MR. PARNELL
That is a fresh proposition altogether. If I were in the enjoyment of a salary of £4,500 a year as an Irish Minister there might be some reason for such an appeal as has been addressed to me; but it is rather too much for the right hon. Gentleman to put upon me, as a private Member of the House, the onus of preparing a plan for the Government, in order to extricate the Government from the difficulty they have brought upon themselves. We are in this position: The right hon. Gentleman tells us he desires to meet the feeling of the Committee that Ireland should be placed in the same position as England so far as he reasonably can; and then the right hon. Gentleman asks me to prepare a plan. It is the duty of the Government to submit a plan, to reduce it to clauses, and to place it upon the Notice Paper along with the other Amendments. When the House of Commons is in possession of this information we may reasonably be called upon to proceed with the discussion of the clauses now under consideration. Until this has been done I submit that common sense, expediency, economy of public time, and Constitutional practice demand the withdrawal of the clauses.
§ (5.37.) SIR W. HARCOURT
As a matter of personal explanation, I desire to meet the charge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, in the absence of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, I have gone contrary to the speech of that right hon. Gentleman in the former Debate, and have broken the pledge that he gave. I should like to read what happened from the Official Report. I said in Committee on Thursday, the 8th instant, that I was glad to hear so conciliatory a statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who—Would best facilitate the passing of the Bill if he withdrew from it the Compensation Clauses and put them in the other Bill, to which they properly belonged. The reason for putting all the taxes into one Bill only applied to taxation for Imperial needs.1154 I added—In this instance you are raising a tax for local purposes, and surely the more logical and sensible course is to raise your tax in the Bill which appropriates it. If you do that you will get your Budget Bill through without delay, because it will not be tied up with the compensation controversy.I was followed by the First Lord of the Treasury, who said he would be very glad to meet the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, but the Government must adhere to the plan they had adopted. He added, however, that they were prepared to postpone the consideration of the clauses until after the Second Reading of the Bill which appropriated the money, and he hoped that proposal would recommend itself, because after the question had been fully discussed on the Second Reading hon. Members could not wish to raise the same discussion immediately afterwards. Here is the answer of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian—I am totally at a loss to understand why these clauses should be included in the Tax Bill. I cannot understand why they should not be included in a separate Bill. Still, I thankfully accept the postponement of the clauses. I certainly shall be no party to any merely obstructive dealing in any stage of business. The separation of the clauses would, I think, be the best solution.Then, at the end of the evening, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh quoted what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in 1888, when he proposed "to introduce the Horse Tax and Wheel Tax in a separate Bill, as they did not affect the Imperial Budget at all," and suggested the adoption of a similar course now. Thereupon the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that to follow the course suggested would necessitate the moving of a fresh Resolution, a First and Second Reading, and a Committee, and wishing to do business as shortly as possible, the Government thought they were pursuing the best course. Thereupon I said—If the Government take the course which my right hon. Friend suggests they may pass their Budget Bill to-morrow. On the other hand, if these matters of compensation, which are hotly contested, are introduced, the Government cannot complain if the wheels drag heavily. It is impossible, if they keep the postponed clauses in the Bill, to avoid delay, because the proposals are regarded with great anxiety in the country, and must necessarily lead to prolonged discussion.1155 I venture to say that this is entirely in accordance with what the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian said earlier in the evening. That, at any rate, is my opinion. I cannot see any inconsistency between the course I have taken and that laid down by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. Is it fair to state, is there any foundation for stating, that the Government had no distinct notice that if these clauses remained in the Bill they would be discussed at full length, and that it would lead to delay, because these proposals are regarded with anxiety in the country. I should be extremely sorry to believe that I lay justly under the imputation of having misled either the Government or the country. I again urge the Government to remove these clauses in another Bill.
Order, order! I must once more point out to the Committee that the Amendment before it is the limitation of the tax to one year.
§ *(5.44.) Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put"; but the CHAIRMAN withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ *MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I only wish to say I object to the manner in which the hon. Member for Cork has spoken of the"Orange publicans."Two-thirds of the publicans of Belfast are Roman Catholics. Rev. P.Convery swore, before the Sunday Closing Committee, that the trade of a publican was the only one in Belfast open to Roman Catholics.
§ MR. PARNELL
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I did use the words improperly; but I corrected myself, perhaps not audibly enough, by substituting the Orange Corporation of Belfast.
§ (5.45.) MR. T. M. HEALY
Would it be in order, if the Amendment were withdrawn, to move again the postponement of the clauses?
I do not see how they could be postponed again. They are the only clauses now remaining.
No doubt in that case the clauses might be postponed until after the consideration of the new clause.
§ (5.46.) MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
I should like to take the ruling of the Chair on a point of order. On Thursday last the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, referring to what I had said, remarked—the contention of my hon. Friend is that the House ought to be allowed to sift, and discuss, and consider the purposes of a tax before they voted.What I want to know, on the point of order, is, whether we are now to understand, after the Second Reading of the other Bill, that we are in exactly the same position as on Thursday. Are we bound to vote this tax without being able, in the words of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, to sift, and discuss, and consider the purposes of the tax?
In the meanwhile there has been a discussion on the Motion for Second Reading. I am not responsible for the limited form which that discussion took, but in that discussion these subjects could have been discussed. I am bound to point out what seems to be imperfectly appreciated, that if these clauses were transferred to the other Bill the discussion would be of the same character. There would be a discussion on one clause on the imposition of the tax, another on the clause for the distribution of the tax between England, Scotland, and Ireland, and a third on the manner in which the tax is to be allocated to the Local Authorities.
§ (5.47.) SIR W. HARCOURT
Would it not be in order to move the further postponement of these clauses until Committee on the other Bill. If the House were satisfied, in that Committee, with the arrangement for dealing with these taxes, they might be willing then to vote this tax. This would be the wiser course to take.
(5.48.) THE CHAIRMAN
I do not see how the clauses could be postponed; but, of course, it would be competent to move to report Progress, and for the House afterwards to decline to resume consideration of the clauses until a future time.
§ *(5.49.) MR. H. H. FOWLER
If these clauses were transferred to the other Bill, would they not be in the nature of new clauses, and consequently have to be postponed until after the other clauses?
§ (5.50.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg to move that you report Progress, and ask leave to sit again, and I do so on these grounds: that for the first time we have to-day boon informed by the Government as to what their intentions are in regard to Ireland. Yesterday we were unable to discuss the case as it affected Ireland. I assert, without fear of contradiction, that if any Irishman had attempted to discuss the question of the extinction of licences by means of money to be raised under this Bill he would have been ruled out of order.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No; the only question which would not have been relevant was that of the non-granting of new licences.
Order! order! The hon. Member will address himself to the Chair. He will be protected from improper interruption.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
We now hear for the first time that the money is to be handed over to the Corporations. What Corporations? Those of Derry and Belfast, on which there is such a high franchise as to exclude all Catholics, and yet the trade is mainly in the hands of Catholics. If it is good to extinguish licences in Ireland we must know who is going to do it. The right hon. Gentleman said a moment or two ago that an appeal was made to him for this concession from these Benches. I reply that no appeal was made by us to the right hon. Gentleman. We asked a question. I know that a bargain has been struck with Sam Black, the Orange Town Clerk of Belfast—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
As the hon. Gentleman thinks that the word Orangeman conveys an offensive imputation I will withdraw it. We know that the bargain has been struck with Mr. Sam Black, and that he came over here from Belfast at the behest of the Corporation, and was introduced by the Member for Mid Armagh to the Government; and I challenge the Government to answer this, whether they, behind the backs of 86 Irish Members—they, the heroes of the Spirit Resolution of 1885, who ejected the Liberal Government because of the 1158 Whisky Tax—whether they have not made a compact to deal with this extra 6d. behind the backs of the Irish Members with Sam Black and the Member for Mid Armagh? The right hon. Gentleman says that an appeal was made to him. What fools we should be to appeal to him! What appeal of ours was ever heeded by the right hon. Gentleman? We should as soon think of appealing to the stones in Westminster Hall. The right hon. Gentleman says there has been an appeal made to him, and that he will give the Corporations these powers. I should like to know what Corporations these are, under what franchise they are elected, and by what means this franchise is to be exercised? The 86 Irish Representatives are asked to vote for a tax on the principal commodity produced in Belfast and Dublin without knowing in the least degree by what legerdemain the money is to be spent. We do not know whether Sam Black is to have it, or who is going to have it; and, under these circumstances, the only thing I am able to discuss is the Motion to report Progress. I certainly think no Motion to report Progress was ever made with more justification. Ireland has been treated with chicane in this business. The Irish Representatives have been deceived, and kept absolutely in a state of ignorance as to what is the intention of the Government, and now the Irish Secretary said, "Oh, if you want a Bill you must draw it up yourselves." I do not get £4,500 a year and coals. The other day I drafted a Bill to supplement the laches of the Government—a Bill to suspend the issue of new licences in Ireland, and last night the Chief Secretary told me I had done a needless thing; that I had done a work of supererogation. Yet now he complains that my hon. Friend the Member for Cork has not done a similar thing! I feel unable to address myself to this question, and respectfully move to report Progress
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ *(5.56.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
As the hon. and learned Gentleman has made the conduct of the Irish Government the excuse for his very extraordinary Motion, and as on this rather slender 1159 foundation he has raised a vast superstructure of accusation, it would perhaps be as well for me to make the position of the Government clear. The hon. and learned Gentleman was wrong in every particular statement of fact which he has made to the House.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There was that one exception, truly. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated; in the first place, that Ireland was not included in the Bill read a second time yesterday. For every purpose connected with the Bill under discussion Ireland was included. The sub-section reads—That the sum of £40,000 shall he assigned to Ireland for the extinction of licences as may be hereafter provided by any Act relating to Local Government in Ireland.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is sufficient to say that my assertion directly traverses the assertion of the hon. Member. The second contention of the hon. and learned Gentleman was even more extraordinary. He imagined that in consequence of some mysterious compact with the hon. Member for Mid Armagh and a certain Mr. Samuel Black who, I understand from his speech, is the Town Clerk of Belfast, the Government base the concession which has been made to the appeals from the Irish Benches. Twice the hon. and learned Member for Longford has asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Government will not give the management of the money to Municipal Authorities where they already exist. The Government, though they prefer their Bill as it is, have declared that, for the sake of peace and quietness, they will not object to such a proposal if it were pressed. Now, it seems that this proposal, which was accepted for the sake of peace, is to be turned into an instrument of obstruction by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The statement that this concession has anything to do with a compact, direct or indirect, implied or expressed, with the hon. Member for Armagh or the Town Clerk of Belfast is entirely and totally without a shadow of foundation.
§ *MR. A J. BALFOUR
There has been no compact whatever. The position of the Government is perfectly clear. The Government are now asked to draft new clauses, but we think the Bill best as it stands. If hon. Members choose to put down clauses embodying their views, the Government will, as they always do, give them their best consideration. I have shown that there is no foundation for the accusations of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I trust, therefore, that the Motion will be withdrawn.
§ (6.0.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I feel it my duty to support the Motion that Progress be reported, because that is the only method known to the House and is certainly the most convenient method by which the clauses might be transferred from the present Bill. The matter is one of very great importance, and though I frankly own I do not understand all the ins and outs of the Irish matter, I think I do thoroughly understand the Scotch part of the question. There has not been a single argument advanced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or by any one who has yet spoken, to show that it is convenient or necessary to enforce the clauses of this Bill, instead of putting them into a Bill containing the services for which these subsidies are asked. The right hon. Gentleman gave no single reason; all he alleged was precedent, and I deny that the precedent he cited is applicable here. I candidly admit that I have forgotten the argument he used, because I could not understand it. The precedent, however, was important. It was the case of the English and Scotch Local Government Bill, and the allocation for local purposes made thereby; but that precedent does not hold in the least, because on that occasion the allotments made for local purposes were to carry out certain well-known and old established and universally agreed on services, such as the administration of the police, as well as of medical and pauper matters; whereas in this case we are going to 1161 have certain perfectly new forms of expenditure to which many of us are strongly opposed. In order not to take up the time of the House, I will confine myself to the Scotch question, and on that I will say that to at least three-fourths of the proposals we, the Scotch Members, are greatly opposed. The small amount given for licences, for education fees, and for police superannuation we were able to some extent to discuss the other night, but the other matters we were unable to discuss at all. The Scotch Members endeavoured to get a word of assurance from the leader of the House before the Bill passed its Second Reading, but that word they were not able to obtain. Therefore, we Scotch Members are in this position, that we are asked to pass a new tax for the purpose of its being applied to objects which are likewise new, and to many of which we strongly object. We say we ought to have these objects settled before the tax is voted. For my part, I object on Constitutional grounds to our voting a new tax for purposes which are dubious and not universally agreed upon beforehand; but it is much worse when that tax is to be voted in one Bill, and the purposes for which it is to be imposed are to be described and arranged in another. It is for the purpose of enabling the Government to meet what is evidently the unanimous wish on this side of the House, and what I feel to be a perfectly honest and sincere wish not to treat it as a Party Question, that we support the Motion for Progress.
§ Mr. SYDNEY GEDGE
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but The CHAIRMAN withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ (6.8.) MR. PARNELL
The right hon. Gentleman the Irish Secretary was entirely inaccurate in the representations he made as to our views in regard to this question. We did not state, and certainly I did not state, as he has represented, that Ireland was not included in the Bill. What I said was that it was impossible to discuss last night or on any other night, on the Second Reading stage of the Bill, the application of the money to Ireland for the extinction of licences, and the reading of the two 1162 sections of the Bill shows this clearly,. The section affecting England provides that the sum of £350,000 is to be applied to such extinctions; but with regard to Ireland we could not discuss the manner in which the licences are to be extinguished, because no method is proposed in the Bill with regard to Ireland. Neither did I assert that there had been any compact between the Government and the Mayor of Belfast. My assertion was distinct and clear. After the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had taken credit for having yielded to the views of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. T. Healy) in the proposals he had made as to Irish Corporations, I stated that the right hon. Gentleman had held an interview with the Mayor of Belfast.
§ MR. PARNELL
I am glad to bear it; but all I can say is that the organ of the right hon. Gentleman, the Belfast News Letter, must be a liar, because it definitely stated that Mr. Black had an interview with the right hon. Gentleman, and that he came over from Belfast to London for that purpose. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman does not shake his head at that statement.
§ MR. PARNELL
This is not a question of the right hon. Gentleman having read the Belfast News Letter.
§ MR. PARNELL
Then, Sir, I shall leave that part of the question, and I will say that our position is this—that this proposal having been made by the Government to deal with the mode of applying money for the extinction of licences we ought to have before us en, bloc the method under which the Government propose to carry out that extinction. It is not reasonable to try and put us off with the vague statements of the right hon. Gentleman. He says he will consider how the Poor Law Boards may expend this money; but such a proposal requires clauses in an Act of Parliament.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have told the House most distinctly that we mean to 1163 submit the Bill in its present shape, and that if hon. Members from Ireland bring forward Amendments we will consider them.
§ MR. PARNELL
Bat the Bill has already been brought in and read a first and second time; and now, when we approach the Committee stage, it is not reasonable for the right hon. Gentleman to put us off and say that if we choose to put down Amendments he will consider them. It is not reasonable that he should ask us to depart from the Constitutional practice, that the application of money voted by the House should first be settled by Act of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman proposes not only to ask the House to vote the money, but also to pass the Budget Bill in its third and last stage, taking everything else on trust. We are to leave it to the right hon. Gentleman to consider what Amendments we may draw up, without the slightest shadow of a notion as to whether they will be accepted. That, I say, is not the proper way of dealing with this question, and can hardly be the way in which the right hon. Gentleman can hope to facilitate the passing of the Bill. I submit that we, the Irish Members, have a serious grievance as to the conduct of the Government in this matter. The only reasonable course to take is the Constitutional practice which has been suggested by the Chairman of Committees, namely, that these clauses should be postponed to enable the Government to bring them forward in the form desired by hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman impugned my accuracy a short time ago. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Mid Armagh (Sir J. Corry) is in his place, but I will challenge him to deny that he and the Chancellor of the Exchequer arranged this matter within the last few days; or, if the contrary is stated, the hon. Member should explain how the extraordinary circumstances happened that in the Government organ in the North of Ireland, the Belfast News Letter, these statements were made, and the matter explained. Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer had an interview with Sir James Corry?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I see the Attorney General for Ireland in his place; did the interview take place with him?
§ *CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N.)
I think the Committee has a right to ask that a Bill affecting Ireland should be treated with the same common-sense as is applied to English and Scotch measures.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I am sorry to intervene; but rafter what has been stated by the Government this evening, it is imperative that we should be enabled to consider the important proposal that has been made. It has been suggested by the Government that the administration of the money shall be placed in the hands of the Municipal Bodies. A few days ago I met a man from Belfast who is connected with the liquor trade, and he suggested that the Local Bodies now in existence might be interested in the application of the fund. I had the Bill in my hand, and I told him that we had already been considering that matter, and, for my own part, I rejected that proposition, because I thought it would be wrong to place such powers in the hands of the restricted Corporations of Belfast or of Dublin, which are largely composed of friends of the publicans. Well, Sir, I met that man a day or two afterwards, and he told me he had been speaking to a gentleman—
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
What I have to say in justification of my speaking on this occasion is, that I think we ought to have time to consider these proposals, and that is the reason why we urge that you, Sir, should report Progress.
§ *CAPTAIN VERNEY
The reason for reporting Progress is that the whole tone and tenour of the Bill has been altered by what the Chief Secretary has stated. The Bill says that until such Act as is referred to has been passed the money shall be invested and accumulated, and, 1165 by the admission of the right hon. Gentleman, the whole object of the measure is to be reversed. The question is not how the money should be spent, but whether it should be spent at all; and the Chief Secretary has offered that it shall be spent by the Boards of Guardians, the Corporations, and the Grand Juries.
§ (6.30.) Mr. WILLIAM JOHNSTON
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 265; Noes 186.—(Div. List, No. 87.)
§ Question pat accordingly.
§ (6.40.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 189; Noes 263.—(Div. List, No. 88.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Whereupon, Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH rose in his place, and claimed "That the Original Question be now put."
§ Original Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (6.50.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 183; Noes 263.—(Div. List, No. 89.)
§ It being after Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House at Nine of the clock.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.