House Of Commons
Monday, 23rd March, 1874.
MINUTES.]—NEW WRIT ISSUED— For County Louth, v. Philip Callan, esquire.
NEW MEMBERS SWORN—Sir Charles Bowyer Adderley, for Stafford (Northern Division); Viscount Mahon, for Suffolk (Eastern Division); Right Hon. Thomas Edward Taylor, for Dublin County; Lord Henry Lennox, for Chichester.
SUPPLY— considered in Committee— Resolutions [March 23] reported—ARMY ESTIMATES; NAVY ESTIMATES; CIVIL SERVICE ESTIMATES, REVENUE DEPARTMENTS.
WAYS AND MEANS— Considered in Committee—Consolidated Fund (£7,000,000)— Resolution [March 23] reported.
PUBLIC BILLS— Resolution in Committee— Ordered— First Reading—Intoxicating Liquors (Ireland)* .
Ordered— First Reading—Consolidated Fund (£1,422,797 14s . 6 d.) * ; East India Annuity Funds * ; Middlesex Sessions [Salaries, &c.]* ; Churchwardens* : Municipal Privileges (Ireland) * ; Borough Franchise (Ireland) * ; Municipal Franchise (Ireland) * .
Second Reading—East India Loan* .
The Queen's Speech
Her Majesty's Answer To The Address
reported Her Majesty's Answer to the Address, as follows:—
I receive with great satisfaction your loyal and dutiful Address.
The affectionate interest you express in the Marriage of the Duke of Edinburgh with the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrowna of Russia is most gratifying to My feelings.
You may be assured that I shall always be ready to co-operate with you in measures which have for their object the promotion of the happiness and welfare of My people.
Ireland—Drainage Of The River Shannon—Question
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce, during the present Session, any measure for the improvement of the drainage of the River Shannon?
, in reply, said, that the drainage of the Shannon was one of the many matters which had been under his consideration in the short time that he had had the honour to hold his present office. He regretted that he had not had time to devote sufficient attention to the subject in order to enable him to give the hon. and learned Member any very definite answer that day; but he was quite aware of its importance and of the injury inflicted on a large part of the country, which ought to be drained by that river, through inundations. It was, however, disputed to what cause those inundations were due, and how far they arose from the works of the Government in respect to the navigation of the Shannon; therefore he was anxious to make for himself a personal investigation into the matter, and he intended to take an early opportunity of visiting the spot, and of acquiring, he hoped, more distinct and definite information than he could do in any other way. If the result should be that he felt himself able to recommend the Government to introduce a Bill on the subject he would be very glad. He might mention that the late Government had directed proper Parliamentary Notices to be given in reference to the matter; but it was right to add that exceptional circumstances must be proved before a grant could fairly be asked from the Imperial Exchequer for operations, the cost of which ought ordinarily to be defrayed from local resources.
asked the Under Secretary of State for India, To state to the House the localities in the Bengal Presidency, together with their extent and populations, now threatened with or suffering from famine, the means adopted both by the present and late Governments for the alleviation of the distress resulting or likely to result there from, and the probable number of persons who will require relief; and, if it be intended to instruct the Viceroy of India to adopt means for promoting and establishing a complete system of irrigation in the rice-growing districts now under British rule?
, in reply, said, he thought he had already given most of the information referred to in the Question, although he did not state the probable number of persons who would require relief. According to late statistics from the Viceroy, it was calculated that possibly about 3,000,000 of persons at some time or other would require relief. It was the intention of the Viceroy to establish a more complete system of irrigation with the view of preventing similar calamities in future; and in the abstract of Papers which would be laid on the Table tomorrow some valuable information would be found on that point. In answer to a Question put to him by the right hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) he might say that he had hoped that the Papers promised would have been distributed on Saturday; but, owing to the very large number of figures they contained, and the necessity of correcting the printer's errors, he was afraid they would not be in the hands of hon. Members till to-morrow morning.
Army—The Defence Act—Wormwood Scrubbs—Questions
asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether it is true that the Metropolitan Common of 170 acres, known as Wormwood Scrubs, is likely to be lost to the commoners and public through the application of the provisions of the Defence Act in the compulsory purchase by the War Department of the commoners rights?
, in reply, said, that, for a great number of years, Wormwood Scrubbs had been used under a lease as a drill ground for troops, and in order to secure the property, it was purchased subject to the rights of the commoners. Negotiations were now going on with the commoners for the purpose of buying out their rights and giving them adequate compensation. There was no necessity at present to put in force the provisions of the Defence Act; but, if the commoners vexatiously interfered with the use of the place for drilling troops, it might be necessary to put those provisions in operation. As to the common being lost to the public, the object of the purchase was to keep it open, not to close it up.
asked, Whether there was any intention of building on it?
said, that he had had no Notice of that Question, but he would say he had every reason to believe no such intention existed.
Civil Service Writers
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchquer, If it is the intention of the Government to take into consideration the Report of the Select Committee on the Civil Service Writers dated 30th July 1873?
, in reply, said, he had had so many things to attend to that he had not yet been able to give his attention as fully as he could wish to that subject; but the Government were paying attention not only to that question, but to other questions affecting the Civil Service, and they hoped to institute an inquiry under the directions of the Treasury which would go into that subject, and also into other cognate questions of equal importance to the Civil Service.
Post Office—Telegraphic Communication With The Channel Islands—Question
asked the Postmaster General, Whether the three Cables uniting Jersey with France and Guernsey are broken; and, when he expects to get Telegraphic Communication restored?
The two cables, the property of the Department, between Guernsey and Jersey are broken: it is expected that the repairing ship will roach Jersey next week, when immediate steps will be taken for repairing the cables. The cable between Jersey and France is the property of the Submarine Telegraph Company. I am informed by the Secretary of that Company that so soon as the repairs of the cables between England and Franco which are at present broken are completed, the repair of this cable will be effected.
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the Heads of Departments in the Foreign Office are paid on a lower scale than gentlemen holding similar appointments in other Government Offices of equal rank; and, if so, whether Her Majesty's Government is prepared to improve the position of these public servants?
It is impossible to make a comparison which shall be exactly accurate between the rates of salary in various offices. The number of clerks in each class varies, the promotion is consequently more rapid in some offices than in others, and the duties assigned to each grade do not in all cases exactly correspond. Taking the Secretaries of States' offices, the salaries of heads of departments in the Foreign Office are exactly the same as in the Home Office, slightly higher than in the War Office, and slightly lower than in the Colonial Office, where there are only three gentlemen holding that grade. The India Office is differently organized, and an accurate comparison is impossible. On the whole, my noble Friend (Lord Derby) does not see any reason to propose to the Treasury an increase of salary, of the heads of Departments, while bearing-willing testimony to the zeal, efficiency, and ability with which the officers of the Foreign Office discharge their duties.
Taxation Of Beer, &C In Foreign Countries—Question
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, If he will lay upon the Table of the House, Copy of the Letter from the Treasury to Lord Granville, dated January 1874, requesting that information may be obtained as to the system of taxing beer or malt in foreign countries, and of the replies that have up to the present time been communicated to the Troasury?
, in reply, said, that if the right hon. Gentleman would move for the Papers in question there would be no objection to their production.
Army—Royal Military College—Sandhurst—Sub-Lieutenants
asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether the system of sending Sub-lieutenants to Sandhurst after they have done duty with their respective Regiments is to be continued?
, in reply, said, that when he came into office he found that proceedings had been very far advanced towards effecting a change in the present system of sending young officers to Sandhurst after they had served for some time with their regiments. He might add, without going into particulars, that that system would be discontinued in a very short time, and the mode in which the officers would he dealt with would be described in a Notice which would be published.
Army—Auxtliary Forces—The Yeomanry—Question
asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether the Reports of the Inspectors of Auxiliary Cavalry have been received; and, if so, whether they recommend the readjustment of the pay and allowances of the permanent staff of the Yeomanry; whether the Government intend in any case to make some such readjustment; and, whether he will lay the said Reports upon the Table of the House?
, in reply, said, that the Reports of the Inspectors of Cavalry with respect to the pay of the permanent Staff of the Yeomanry were of an entirely confidential character, and that he could not, therefore, promise to lay them on the Table. The question of detail to which they related was under consideration, and he would soon have to make a statement on the subject, which he hoped would be as satisfactory to the hon. Gentleman as if he had it in his power to give him a different answer on the present occasion.
Post Office—Registration Of Letters—Question
asked the Postmaster General, Whether the Post Office, with The sanction of the Treasury, is authorized by any Act of Parliament to charge differential rates of postage, not calculated by weight, upon letters according to their contents, with the view of rendering the registration of letters containing money compulsory?
, in reply, said, that the Post Office authorities had general powers, under the Act of Parliament, to register letters, and the charges were not calculated by weight, but were fixed by the authorities, and from time to time were sanctioned by the Treasury. The authorities were also empowered, in order to prevent the robbery of letters containing coin, to register such letters when the senders neglected doing so, and to charge an extra rate of postage.
Order for Committee read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
The Income Tax
, in rising pursuant to Notice, to call attention to the expediency of extending the exemptions to the payment of the Income Tax, and to move, "That, in the opinion of this House, incomes not exceeding £500 a year should be exempted from the payment of Income Tax," said, he did not think it necessary to defend the principle of exemption, which was co-existent with, and part and parcel of Sir Robert Peel's scheme when he introduced the Income Tax. In that measure exemptions were first proposed upon the basis of graduated incomes. Neither did he think it necessary to point out that the tax bore most oppressively upon the smaller class of incomes. What really had to be considered was simply the practical question of how that oppression could best be removed, and there were three courses open for the accomplishment of this object. First, they might diminish the tax by favouring Schedule D; secondly, they might do away with the tax altogether; and thirdly, they might adopt the suggestion contained in his Resolution. As regarded Schedule D, he would remind the House that income arose from realized capital, from capital and skill combined, and from skill and labour combined, and this would have to be borne well in mind in dealing with the question. Some people said that if they wished in any way to deal with Schedule D they must adopt some such scheme as was proposed by Mr. Wilson, and arrange on a systematic plan the different classes of incomes. It would seem impossible, however, always to trace income to its source, and the only thing to be done was to take it where it was found. Another objection to the removal of Schedule 1) was, that if it were effected they must equally favour the fundholder who lived on income derived from money invested in the funds. These reasons appeared so conclusive that the Committee which sat in 1861, reported that its removal was impracticable. Next there was the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) to abolish the Income Tax altogether—a proposition from which he for one entirely dissented, but he was nevertheless prepared to admit that on financial matters the right hon. Gentleman was the greatest authority they had on the subject. It was on that account that he felt surprised at such a proposition being put forward, a proposition which, in his opinion, would derange their whole system of taxation, and leave the greater part of the Revenue derived from Customs and Excise. Nothing could be more dangerous for property than to exempt it from its fair share of taxation, especially when in this case they considered how largely the working classes paid the duties on Customs and Excise. There remained the proposal which he now brought before the House, which he believed was a fair and just one, inasmuch as it relieved a class of persons whose incomes were ill able to bear the many burdens imposed upon them. He would further add that a great deal was said in regard to the immorality of the Income Tax, and there was reason to believe that if they exempted small incomes they would do away in a great measure with this immorality, for evidence that had been given by the surveyor of taxes for the City of London showed that the immorality arose for the most part in connection with small incomes, and was rare in the case of large ones. He was also bound to observe that he did not fix the amount stated in his Resolution arbitrarily, nor did he wish to exact any premature disclosure of has financial scheme from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but simply to receive an assurance that his proposition would receive careful consideration, and be, if possible, carried out to some extent. He was perfectly aware that within the last few days Downing Street had been besieged by every class and interest, and by some so wealthy and so powerful that he would have thought it was rather from a plethora of wealth than from penury they suffered. He now asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to let the House know how far he was prepared to go in the direction indicated? The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution.
, in seconding the Motion, said, that as he fully concurred in the arguments of his hon. Friend, he should not detain the House; but he could not help saying that he, too, entirely dissented from the proposition to repeal the Income Tax.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, incomes not exceeding £500 a-year should be exempted from the payment of Income Tax,"—(Mr. Sandford,)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give no assurance of any kind. If there was one point on which the country had thoroughly made up its mind it was as to the extreme inexpediency of making premature declarations with regard to remissions of taxation. For his own part, he had an opinion, old-fashioned it might be, but strong, that there was really no surplus at all, for as long as there was a debt owing by the country it was only by a fiction that we spoke of a surplus. At any rate, if it was to be held there was really such a thing, let them give honour to whom honour was due by recognizing the man who had established the principle. He referred to Mr. Brummell, who, many years ago, in attempting to account for the ruin of a friend, asked—"What can you expect from a person who has frittered away his fortune in paying his debts?" He thought, however, that in the present case they need not be in any desperate hurry to fritter away their savings, neither were they justified at that period of the Session in calling on the right hon. Gentleman for any explanation whatever.
said, he also was anxious to take that early opportunity of expressing the strong objection he entertained, in common with many hon. Members on the Liberal side of the House, to the proposal which had been made for the total abolition of the Income Tax. It was not with the least desire to force the hand of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he rose to speak on the subject; and as it was likely the Motion would not be pressed to a division, he did not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman would answer what he was about to say on the subject, or do anything on this occasion to anticipate or compromise the forthcoming Budget. On the other hand, when a question of this magnitude had been brought forward as the principal question on which the General Election was to turn, he thought it might be rather an assistance than a hindrance to Government to have it in some measure discussed and ventilated before the final decision was taken as to the financial charges of the year. He would now proceed to put before the House his reasons for opposing the proposition to repeal the Income Tax altogether. With regard to the mode in which that proposal had been made, he wished to say as little as possible, and that for two reasons—first, because financial questions ought not to be approached with any of that heat and excitement which were inseparable from party questions; and, in the next place, because he felt that, in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), it would be wrong and ungenerous for anyone on that side of the House to taunt him with failure, or to impute motives which he was sure they would all acquit him of. It seemed to him the right hon. Gentleman had had one of those sudden and audacious inspirations which when they succeeded were called genius, and when they failed were called madness. While actuated by motives that were at once honourable and sincere, he (Mr. Laing) believed the right hon. Gentleman had not taken time to weigh sufficiently all the different considerations which to ordinary minds might have presented both constitutional and financial objections to the mode in which the repeal of the Tax was proposed as the turning question of the General Election. But he would pass from that point to consider the subject on its merits. The Income Tax had now been for more than 30 years the keystone of our financial system, and it was pure nonsense to talk of it merely as a war tax. When it was first imposed, more than 30 years ago, by Sir Robert Peel, its object was not to meet the exigencies of a war, but to remedy a state of chronic deficit which had existed during years of peace. Since that time, although there had been many years of profound peace, the tax had never ceased to be levied, but had formed, on the contrary, the key-stone of our financial policy. For 10 years prior to its introduction the Revenue had shown no elasticity; there had been no remissions of taxation, deficits had gone on accumulating, an attempt to produce an equilibrium by putting a surcharge on the Revenue from Customs and Excise duties had failed, and thus the Income Tax had become necessary. The tax was thus made the means of inaugurating a totally different financial policy; and what was the result? Within 10 years of its imposition, £12,209,000 of taxation had been remitted, and Customs and Excise had increased by £2,650,000; while taking the full period of 32 years from the time when the Income Tax was first imposed by Sir Robert Peel, it would be found that the balance of taxation remitted was over £40,000,000, or more than two-thirds of the total amount of Revenue in 1842, when the Tax was first imposed. Yet, such was the wonderful buoyancy of trade, that at this moment the Revenue was £15,000,000 a-year greater than in 1842, or, in other words, the result of the Financial policy inaugurated by the Income Tax, had been to enable us to remit two-thirds of our previously existing taxes, and in doing so to increase our Revenue by one-fourth. To estimate the full importance of this we must remember how taxation stood in 1842. In that year food in almost every form was taxed. Tea, sugar, and coffee were under an almost prohibitory duty. The house you lived in was taxed, and so were timber, soap, glass, paper, and a large list of necessary articles. The consequence was, a crushing and totally disproportionate weight of taxation upon the humbler classes of the community. This great relief in taxation had not been gained by increasing the National Debt. On the contrary, although there had been an Irish famine, and the Crimean, New Zealand, and Abyssinian Wars since the time when the Income Tax was imposed by Sir Robert Peel, we had during that period diminished the annual burden incurred through the obligations of the National Debt by more than 10 per cent. equivalent to a reduction being made in the capital amount of the Debt to at least £70,000,000. He would oven venture to say that, in the whole of that period, there was no single year in which, instead of a surplus, there would not have been a deficit but for the Income Tax. Another most important advantage was derived from the Income Tax. It should be remembered that the imposition of the Tax had greatly contributed to a fair adjustment of taxation between the different classes of society. In 1842. the working classes were burdened with excessive taxes on almost all the articles that entered into their necessary daily consumption. In 1842, out of £50,000,000 which were levied by taxation from the people of England, £19,000,000 were levied upon the necessaries of life; £12,000,000 by direct taxation upon trade and wealth; and £ 19,000,000 upon what wore called luxuries and superfluities, including such articles as spirits and tobacco. In 1872, how great was the change! Instead of £50,000,000 there were levied in the whole £65,000,000, but instead of £19,000,000 being levied upon the necessaries of life, there were levied only £8,000,000, and this not upon actual necessaries such as food and clothing, but upon articles of general consumption, such as tea and sugar, which the increasing prosperity of the country had made almost necessaries. On the other hand, the direct taxation upon trade and wealth increased from £12,000,000 to £23,000,000. He was sure that with regard to the working classes the adjustment was lenient towards them, as he thought it ought to be. That was evidenced by the fact that the aggregate income of the upper and middle classes, whose numbers were estimated at 10,500,000, wasestimatedat£500,000,000 a-year, and they paid about £60,000,000 in the shape of Imperial and local taxes; while the aggregate income of the working classes was estimated at£400,000,000 a-year, and they paid only £30,000,000. In connection with the latter sum he might observe that a considerable proportion of the Revenue obtained from the working classes consisted of the tax on spirits, and he thought this could hardly be considered as a burden, but rather that it would be a benefit to the working classes if the tax on spirits were increased with the view of raising the price of spirits. It was important in these times, when demagogues were going about making harangues against capitalists, that they should be able to show that the upper and middle classes of this country had voluntarily imposed taxes on their incomes in order that the necessaries of life should be cheapened to the working classes. The propriety of preserving a just balance between direct and indirect taxation was so evident, that it had become an axiom of finance that if you reduced the Income Tax you must make a corresponding reduction in the Customs or Excise duties. That was acted upon during the Crimean War, when we raised the Income Tax, and at the same time raised the duties on sugar and malt. It had been acted upon frequently since then when we reduced duties, and no one could imagine that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich would have proposed to repeal the Income Tax without giving a corresponding relief with reference to taxes on articles of general consumption. Therefore, if we repealed Income Tax to the amount of £5,000,000, we must at the same time remit taxes on articles of general consumption to the amount of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000. And if so, and we repealed £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 of taxes, with a surplus which, on the most sanguine calculation could hardly amount to £5,000,000, we were left with a deficit, how was that to be met? It could be met by only one of two ways—by economy, or by fresh taxation. As to meeting a deficit by economy, his expectations were not very sanguine after the Treasury had been so many years in charge of such dragons of financial virtue as the late Ministry; and considering the many demands already urged upon the present Government, he thought it would require much resolution and self-denial on their part to prevent an increase in the Estimates. Further, he thought it was quite clear that, be it right or wrong, there was a re-action in the public mind against excessive parsimony in many of the branches of our expenditure. If we could not meet a deficit by economy then, we should be obliged to resort to fresh taxation. But there was a great objection to the imposition of new taxes to a large amount in a commercial country like this. Let the House see what an objection there must be to any serious alteration in the policy so successfully pursued for many years past. It was well known that a bad old tax was often better than a new one, and that fresh taxation of any description disturbed trade, and created discontent among all classes in the community. It could not be done without raising a multitude of most difficult and perplexing questions as to the incidence of taxation. Some persons would advocate socialist theories, and tell us that all the taxes should be put upon wealth; others would say that we should return to the Protectionist system. Repeal the Income Tax, and forthwith £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 of new taxes must of necessity be imposed, which, in his opinion, would be a most objectionable and impolitic proceeding. It was impolitic to part with the Income Tax for another reason—it was important, with reference to our negotiations with foreign countries, that they should know that by raising that tax of 3d. or 4d. in the pound, without disturbing trade, without a sensible strain upon ourselves, we could raise a larger sum to carry on war in ease of need than other countries could by straining their credit to the utmost with a succession of onerous loans. Well, to retain this important clement, we must continue that machinery by which the tax was raised during the times of peace as well as war, for if we discontinued it, foreign nations knew that we could not go to war without a great effort or reviving an unpopular tax. Nor was it only with a view to war that the maintenance of the machinery of the Income Tax was valuable. Peace had its panics, and it would occasionally happen that we had deficits when we expected surpluses. If we were again to have a year or two of deficits, then how much more convenient would it be to make good the deficit by adding 1d. or 2d. to the Income Tax, rather than by imposing new taxes. He contended that the Income Tax was the regulator of our entire financial system, which made it work smoothly and without jerks or jars, and if we did away with this machinery, the difficulties of raising the rest of the national taxation would be very much enhanced. Another advantage of retaining the Income Tax had reference to the reduction of the National Debt. He confessed he was astonished at the proposal which had been made, looking at the quarter from which it emanated, for he remembered that not long ago earnest appeals were made to the House to raise a large sum of money by means of additional taxation for the purpose of reducing the Debt, it having then been a doctrine that such a step was rendered necessary by the approaching exhaustion of our coalfields. Although he combated that doctrine at the time, believing as he did that it was a bad policy to pursue to raise a large sum permanently by extra taxation in order to invest it at 3¼ per cent in paying off debt, he did not for a moment deny that it was sound policy in years of ordinary prosperity to effect a moderate reduction of the Debt. The history of the last 12 years sufficiently showed that unexpected contingencies would arise which would make it necessary for us to spend large sums of money, and, therefore, if we made no provision in good years for keeping down the National Debt, it might be much increased at the end of a considerable period. In his judgment, therefore, we ought to proceed in the course we had adopted of late years. Our main sources of income ought to be kept intact, estimates of revenue and expenditure ought to be framed cautiously on the safe side, and we ought not to discount too largely the progressive increase in the Revenue. If, however, we parted with the Income Tax, we should not, in his belief, have a surplus for 30 years to come; but we should, on the contrary, enter upon a period of deficits. Again, it might be said that the Income Tax had done its work, and that it was the only unpopular impost which remained unrepealed. That he totally denied. He maintained that there were many other taxes still remaining to which great objection could be taken, and that the necessity for the revision of a great deal of taxation still existed, and would soon be forced upon the House. First of all, there were the taxes on locomotion which nobody alleged to be defensible except on the ground that revenue was needed. Then many of the licence duties were opposed to sound principles of finance, because they pressed heavily on the middle-man. The same remark was applicable to the malt tax. Without wishing to interfere in the pretty quarrel which was springing up between the agriculturists and the brewers, he desired to say that nothing but practical difficulties could justify the levying the revenue on the first stage of the manufacture of the article instead of its last. Next, there was the still more important question of local taxation. Until the Government had considered the question, and submitted it to the House in a practical form, it was impossible for anyone to say what amount ought in justice and in accordance with sound policy to be transferred from local to Imperial Revenue. That some amount ought to be so transferred might be inferred from the proposal made by the Government some time ago to give up the house tax. This question of local taxation ought to be considered fairly on its own merits. Its consideration ought not to be hampered by the exigencies of a preconceived Budget, but the House ought to do what appeared to be just and necessary. If, however, the Income Tax were repealed, how would it be possible to do what was just and equitable in regard to local taxation? If there wore no surplus how could local taxation obtain relief? It would be sound policy to remove some of the causes which rendered the Income Tax exceptionally unpopular, rather than to seek its total repeal. Of course all taxes were more or less unpopular, but as regarded the Income Tax, fully two-thirds of it—namely, all the Schedules except part of Schedule I)—wore as little objectionable and as little objected to as any mode of raising the Revenue that he was acquainted with. Even taking Schedule 1), to which he admitted there were objections, he thought it would be found that there were numerous classes of Her Majesty's subjects among whom this tax was by no means especially unpopular. He was not at all sure, for instance, that the agricultural class did not take more interest in the malt tax and in local taxation than in the question of Income Tax. In like manner, railway shareholders probably thought the passenger duty pressed upon them more hardly than the Income Tax. In his opinion, the real objections to the Income Tax resolved themselves into two. The first was that it pressed disproportionately on small fixed incomes, and undoubtedly it was a fact that, in consequence of the increased cost of living, widows, clergymen, and others, who enjoyed fixed incomes of £200 or thereabouts, were unable to live as well as they could have done 32 years ago when the Income Tax was first imposed. Another argument which might be adduced was that in the same period the increase of wages had brought the incomes of many skilled artizans and others, close up to the level at which they should become chargeable with Income Tax. These, in his opinion, were good reasons why the existing exemption should be extended. He did not go as far as his hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford) who submitted the present Motion; but his opinion was that incomes of £200, and under, should not be liable to the tax, and that the first £100 should be deducted from incomes ranging between £200 and £400. Such an alteration would do away with many of the complaints of undue pressure on small incomes, and the remission might be easily effected with the surplus at present existing. However, he only threw out this suggestion for consideration, as he did not expect the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to state what he was going to do. He only wished to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the importance of retaining the tax, and of endeavouring to mitigate some of the objections which were raised against it. The only other objection of any force against the Income Tax was that vexatious annoyance and temptation to fraud arose from the necessity of making the returns, and no serious attempt had yet been made to diminish that source of unpopularity. Without, however, attempting any such enterprise as the re-adjustment of the Schedules, he thought a great deal might be done by improving the machinery for assessment. For instance, the Manchester Institute of Actuaries recently made a suggestion, which was well worthy of consideration, to the effect that a composition for an extended period of years, such as three or five years, ought to be allowed and encouraged. A referee of ability, sworn to secrecy, might be appointed to go down to a town, persons engaged in trade could go before him, and he might determine what amount of income should be taxed for a certain number of years under Schedule D. If the suggestion thus made were adopted, there would be no need for annual inquiry and assessment, and the annoyance now felt by men in business would be to a great extent obviated. He did not expect the right hon. Gentleman to say now whether he agreed with him as to the policy of retaining the Income Tax; but, knowing in how sound a financial school the right hon. Gentleman had been trained, that would probably be his conclusion. If, however, any doubt lingered in his mind on the subject, would it not be wiser for the Government to hold their hands, at all events, until the question of local taxation was settled, because until then they really did not know what surplus would remain to be dealt with? A Government new to office should have an opportunity of thoroughly revising our fiscal system, and of considering the expediency of replacing the tax on malt by a tax on beer, of abolishing the taxes on locomotion, and other financial questions. If the surplus of the year was not exhausted by their financial proposals, the result would simply be the payment of a certain amount of Debt, and, though he was opposed to the permanent levy of taxes with a view to the extinction of Debt, no one could object to such an operation during a single year under the exceptional circumstances now existing. At all events, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not commit the irretrievable mistake of parting with the key-stone of our financial system—a system inaugurated by our greatest English financier, Sir Robert reel, and extended by his worthy successor, the late Prime Minister; a system which was the envy and admiration of all other European countries; a system which had reconciled classes, reduced Debt, and led to an unexampled growth of wealth and prosperity; a system, which was, on the whole, the most equitable, the most elastic, and the most successful mode of raising a large Revenue which the world had ever seen. MR. HERMON hoped that the Motion would not be pressed, though he thought that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to bring forward his Statement, it would be found that he would regard the Income Tax as one of the most-important subjects he had to consider, and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to discover some system by which the incidence of the tax would be made more equal and its inquisitorial character modified. He did not think the House of Commons should adopt the opinion attributed to the surveyors of taxes in the City of London, that there was more concealment in the case of small than of large incomes; and the severe pressure of the tax upon the class of small traders and clerks should not be forgotten. As the time was so near when the Chancellor of the Exchequer would make his Financial Statement, be considered the best course the House could now adopt would be to leave the matter in his hands.
protested against the specific alteration now proposed in the tax, for, first, the system of exemptions was nothing but confiscation under another name, and, secondly, that system did not remove or alleviate any one of the objections made to the Income Tax—did not make it less inquisitorial, distinguish between precarious and fixed incomes, or diminish the temptation to fraud. At the same time he regretted to find the hon. Member for the Orkneys (Mr. Laing) so absorbed by his desire to repeal the taxes on locomotion that he was unable to appreciate the strong objections to this tax. A great objection to the Income Tax was, that it pressed unequally in its operation, and affected the small trader and persons with uncertain incomes in an oppressive manner. The artist, for instance, with a good income, might have his hand palsied to-morrow; yet he was taxed just at the same rate as the man deriving the same income from land. The proposal to alter the Income Tax, as it affected persons with small incomes, did not do away altogether with the objections to it. One of the inherent objections to the Income Tax was the manner of the assessment, which it was considered led to the promotion of fraud; and in some places surveyors in their assiduity, had surcharged persons to a considerable extent. That was a grave objection to the manner of assessing the tax. This was a question which should be dealt with broadly, and those who supposed that the great middle class of the country were not determined either to remove the objectionable features of the Income Tax, or to have the tax abolished altogether, greatly misunderstood their feeling on the subject. He could not help thinking that the Government would make a mistake if they followed at all the very bad advice given to them by some of the party now sitting on the Opposition 'Benches; and until it was shown to be possible to place the tax on a fair basis, he said remove it altogether, and hoped the advice which had been given by the hon. Member for Orkney would not be followed. The tax had been imposed, in the first instance, as a war tax; and it was afterwards re-imposed by Sir Robert Peel in the reconstruction of the taxation of the country, and as a means of meeting a great financial void. He would for the present content himself with saying that though strongly in favour of the ultimate repeal of the Income Tax when it could be got rid of, he was of opinion that if the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman wore to be adopted it would only postpone the remission of the tax and aggravate the existing evils.
said, that as it was generally understood that the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford), did not intend to divide the House on the Motion, he would suggest that, as a fitting opportunity for discussing the subject of the Income Tax would shortly be presented in due course, the hon. Gentleman should be allowed to withdraw his Motion and the House to proceed to the other Business on the Paper.
regarded the Motion merely as an attempt to draw from the Chancellor of the Exchequer what were likely to be the main features of his Budget; but he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not be drawn into making any such revelation. The Income Tax was very generally regarded as a war tax;—but this he thought was wrong, though every Chancellor of the Exchequer had to a certain extent looked upon it in that light. When any war arose, or in the case of any emergency, a very large sum could be raised by means of this tax, with very little trouble, and this put immense power in the hands of the Minister. But the evil of the tax was this—the persons who did not pay the tax were very much more numerous than those who did. Now, whatever might be professed to the contrary, a war was popular with the working classes. This might be soon from the fact that wherever the power of a State had fallen into the hands of the people, the nation was found to be speedily involved in a war. The history of every country proved it. Take, for instance, the case of France in 1792, and of the United States only a few years ago. If, therefore, the balance of power was in the hands of the working classes of this country, as it now was, it was dangerous to treat the Income Tax as a war tax, because by so doing you would enable these classes who did not pay the Income Tax to declare for war, while they left the less numerous class who did, to pay for it. Now, the adoption of the present Motion would very much increase this evil, because it would increase the number of those who desired the Luxury of war without paying for it, while it would diminish the number of those who would have to bear the burden. It was, perhaps, too late to avoid the evil altogether—we had got our "Old Man of the Sea," and we should not find it very easy to throw him off.
said, the good sense of the House had so entirely anticipated the answer he had to give that he need scarcely say anything. He would merely remind hon. Members of Talleyrand's observation when some Friend said to him, "I hope I shall not be indiscreet in asking you a question;" to which he replied, "There can be no indiscretion in a question, but there may be in the answer." That would be his answer, if he were to say anything on the subject; and therefore he would merely add that he thanked all those hon. Gentlemen who had taken part in the discussion, for the contributions they had made to the Budget.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
rose to make an appeal to the noble Lord the Under Secretary for India not to bring on the second reading of the EAST INDIA LOAN BILL that evening. He looked at the Indian Famine with great anxiety, but, like other hon. Gentlemen, he had carefully avoided expressing any opinion on the subject hitherto, because the information which had been received was not only imperfect, but contradictory. If the Bill were once read a second time, there would be no fitting opportunity of offering such remarks on the question as he should desire to do. It might be said that a specific Motion might be made with regard to it, but that was a course which hon. Members, especially on that side, would not like to see adopted, particularly by one who, like himself, thought too great praise could not be given to the Viceroy for the energy and ability which, from the beginning, had characterized his measures. It could not be the desire of any hon. Member of the House to withdraw the Bill from fair, candid, and even searching criticism, and, therefore, he hoped the noble Lord would not proceed with the second reading until the Papers which he had promised on Saturday were laid on the Table.
said, on the contrary, he trusted the noble Lord would proceed at once with the Bill, without delay, as it was of the greatest consequence that what it was proposed should be done for India should be expedited as much as possible, and that that great dependency should see there was no delay on the part of England in aiding, by funds borrowed in England, to feed the people of the famine-struck districts. The Papers relating to the measures of Government to feed the people would follow as a matter of course.
said, he could not accede to the request of his hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir Seymour Fitzgerald). He had not promised that the Papers would be laid on the Table that day, but had stated that in all probability they would be in the hands of hon. Members. He was sorry they had been delayed; but they were in the hands of the printers, and he was informed that they would be in the hands of hon. Gentlemen tomorrow. It was of the greatest importance that the Bill should be proceeded with, and any remarks which hon. Members had to offer might be made when the House wont into Committee on the subject.
Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
Supply—Navy, Army, Civil Service And Revenue Departments
Votes On Account
Supply—Considered In Committee
(In the Committee.)
(1.) £2,000,000, on account, Wages, &c. to Seamen and Marines.
rose to make an appeal to hon. Gentlemen to allow a Vote of Credit for the year ending the 31st of March, 1875, to be taken without requiring him to make the usual statement with regard to the Navy Estimates. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury had explained the other day in detail the great difficulty the Government would experience in getting the financial business through during the financial year, and it was only by the indulgence of the House it could possibly be done. It was not in his power to make his statement to the House now, nor would it be before Easter. Therefore, he ventured to deprecate on this occasion anything which would lead to a discussion on the Navy Estimates. He was aware that many hon. Friends on his own side were anxious to have a debate now, but he would earnestly beg of them to pass a Vote of Credit for £2,000,000 without discussion.
said, the Committee must feel that the request made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty was a reasonable one, and, under the circumstances, he trusted they would not be disposed to enter upon any debate now on the Navy Estimates. It would be quite impossible for the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty to make a satisfactory statement on this occasion. He trusted, therefore, that hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House would fall in with the right hon. Gentleman's views.
Vote agreed to.
(2.) £2,000,000, on account, Pay and Allowances Land Forces at Home and Abroad.
, in moving a similar Vote of Credit on account of the Army Estimates, said, that he hoped to make the usual statement on Monday, though it was impossible to say at present, whether he should have an opportunity of doing so.
Vote agreed to.
(3.) That a sum, not exceeding £1,886,600, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charge for the following Civil Services, to the 31st day of March 1875: viz.
|Furniture of Public Offices||2,400|
|Houses of Parliament||5,000|
|New Home and Colonial Offices||7,000|
|Sheriff Court Houses, Scotland||2,400|
|National Gallery Enlargement||5,000|
|Industrial Museum, Edinburgh||1,000|
|Post Office and Inland Revenue Buildings||23,000|
|British Museum Buildings||1,000|
|Science and Art Department||1,600|
|Survey of the United Kingdom||22,000|
|Harbours of Refuge||1,500|
|Metropolitan Eire Brigade||1,700|
|Rates on Government Property||6,000|
|Natural History Museum||15,000|
|Metropolitan Police Courts||4,000|
|New Courts of Justice, &c.||13,000|
|New Palace at Westminster—Acquisition of Lands, &c.||1,700|
|Embassy Houses and Consular Buildings||14,000|
|House of Lords, Offices||7,500|
|House of Commons, Offices||8,000|
|Treasury and Subordinate Departments||9,500|
|Home Office and Subordinate Departments||14,000|
|Privy Council Office and Subordinate Departments||5,000|
|Board of Trade and Subordinate Departments||18,000|
|Privy Seal Office||500|
|Civil Service Commission||3,300|
|Copyhold, Inclosure, and Tithe Commission||3,000|
|Inclosure and Drainage Acts Expenses||1,500|
|Exchequer and Audit Department||6,500|
|Friendly Societies, Registrars of||400|
|Local Government Board||60,000|
|National Debt Office||3,000|
|Paymaster General's Office||3,500|
|Public Record Office||3,500|
|Public Works Loan Commission||800|
|Register Office, General||7,000|
|Stationery Office and Printing||73,000|
|Woods, Forests, &c, Office of||4,000|
|Works and Public Buildings, Office of||7,000|
|Exchequer and other Offices||1,000|
|Register Office, General||1,000|
|Board of Supervision||3,000|
|Lord Lieutenant's Household||1,000|
|Chief Secretary's Office||4,000|
|Charitable Donations and Bequests Office||400|
|Local Government Board||18,000|
|Public Record Office||1,000|
|Public Works Office||4,500|
|Register Office, General||4,000|
|Court of Chancery||28,500|
|Common Law Courts||12,000|
|Court of Bankruptcy||7,500|
|Admiralty Court Registry||2,000|
|Land Registry Office||1,000|
|Police Courts, London and Sheerness||2,500|
|County and Borough Police, Great Britain||62,000|
|Convict Establishments in England and the Colonies||77,000|
|County Prisons, Great Britain||17,000|
|Reformatories and Industrial Schools, Great Britain||55,000|
|Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum||5,000|
|Miscellaneous Legal Charges||3,000|
|Courts of Law and Justice||10,000|
|Register House Departments||5,000|
|Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions||13,000|
|Court of Chancery||7,000|
|Common Law Courts||4,500|
|Court of Bankruptcy and Insolvency||1,400|
|Landed Estates Court||2,000|
|Admiralty Court Registry||400|
|Registry of Deeds||2,500|
|Registry of Judgments||500|
|Dublin Metropolitan Police||22,000|
|County Prisons and Reformatories||15,000|
|Dnndrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum||1,000|
|Four Courts Marshalsea Prison||300|
|Miscellaneous Legal Charges||11,000|
|Science and Art Department||46,000|
|National Portrait Gallery||300|
|University of London||1,500|
|Endowed Schools Commission||1,500|
|Board of Education||1,000|
|Universities, &c. in Scotland||3,000|
|National Gallery, Scotland||300|
|Commissioners of Education (Endowed Schools)||100|
|Royal Irish. Academy||300|
|Colonies, Grants in Aid||7,000|
|Orange River Territory and St. Helena||600|
|Slave Trade, Commissions for Suppressions of||—|
|Tonnage Bounties, &c.||2,000|
|Superannuation and Retired Allowances||71,000|
|Merchant Seamen's Fund Pensions, &c.||6,500|
|Relief of Distressed British Seamen||5,000|
|Hospitals and Infirmaries, Ireland||3,000|
|Miscellaneous Charitable Allowances, &c. Great Britain||1,000|
|Miscellaneous Charitable Allowances, &C. Ireland||1,000|
|Deep Sea Exploring Expedition||500|
(4.) That a sum, not exceeding £1,256,000, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charge for the following Revenue Departments to the 31st day of March 1875: viz.—
|Post Office Packet Service||166,000|
|Post Office Telegraphs||160,000|
Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.
East India Loan Bill—Bill 28
( Mr. Raikes, Mr. William Henry Smith, Lord George Hamilton, Mr. Dyke.)
Order for Second Reading read.
, in moving "That the Bill be now read the second time," said, that since Friday, when he mentioned that the Secretary of State in Council was prepared to reduce the monthly drafts on the Indian Government by £400,000, it had been determined further to relieve the Indian Government by an additional reduction of £200,000. Accordingly, after the first draft in the month of April the total amount by which the drafts would be reduced would be £600,000. He thought it right to place these facts before the House, so that hon. Gentlemen might be able to make upon them whatever remarks they might wish, and would conclude by moving the second reading of the Bill.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.
Ways And Means
Consolidated Fund (£1,422,797 14S 6D) Bill
Resolution [March 21] reported, and agreed to:—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. RAIKES, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, and Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH.
Bill presented, and read the first time.
Ways And Means
Consolidated Fund (£7,000,000)
Considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
Resolved, That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year ending on the 31st day of March 1875, the sum of £7,000,000 be granted, out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom.
Resolution to be reported Tomorrow; Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.
East India Annuity Funds Bill
Resolution [March 21] reported, and agreed to:—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. RAIKES, Lord GEORGE HAMILTON, and Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 30.]
Middlesex Sessions Salaries, &C Bill
Resolution [March 21] reported, and agreed to:—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. RAIKES, Mr. Secretary CROSS, and Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 29.]
On Motion of Mr. MONK, Bill to provide facilities for the admission of Churchwardens into Office, ordered to be brought in by Mr. MONK and Mr. GOLDNEY.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 31.]
Intoxicating Liquors (Ireland) Bill
Considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
Resolved, That the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave be given to bring in
a Bill to relieve Traders in Intoxicating Liquors in Ireland from certain restrictions in carrying on their trade.
Resolution reported:—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. SULLIVAN and Mr. DEASE.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 32.]
Municipal Privileges (Ireland) Bill
On Motion of Mr. BUTT, Bill to extend to Municipal Corporations in Ireland certain privileges now exercised and enjoyed by Municipal Corporations in England, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Burr, Sir JOHN CRAY, Mr. BRYAN, and Mr. P. J. SMYTH.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 33.]
Borough Franchise (Ireland) Bill
On Motion of Mr. BRYAN, Bill to assimilate the Borough Franchise in Ireland to that in England, ordered to be brought in by Mr. BRYAN, Mr. BUTT, and Mr. BLENNERHASSETT.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 3;3.]
Municipal Franchise (Ireland) Bill
On Motion of Mr. BUTT, Bill to assimilate the law regulating the Municipal Franchise in Ireland to that regulating it in England, ordered to be brought in by Mr. BUTT, Sir JOHN GRAY, Mr. BRYAN, and Mr. P. J. SMYTH.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 34.]
House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock.