Resolutions [ April 23 rd] reported.
said, he would take that opportunity of making a few remarks upon the late Financial Statement, his object being to remove some doubts and misapprehensions which seemed to exist in reference to the policy of the Government. In so doing, he had great pleasure in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as being the first Financial Minister of the country who had combined in the Budget the questions of local and Imperial taxation. The concussions, however, made to the ratepayers of the Kingdom, after all, were not so very large. As regarded England and Wales, they did not exceed £830,000, which was equivalent to a rate of 1¾ d. in the pound, and the relief was so small that it would probably find its way into the pockets of the occupiers of land, and not into the owners'. Small, however, as the concession was, he believed it was based on a desire to do justice to the ratepayers. The present Government were not responsible for the form in which relief was given in respect of the police; they found the form devised, and had only to advance the proportion from one-quarter to one-half of the cost of pay and clothing. So far as money went, the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) made a more liberal offer, for he proposed to give up the house duty, which amounted to £1,100,000; but the defect of that proposal was that more than half of the money would have gone to the metropolis. It was not true, as had been stated, that the greater proportion of this additional police grant would go to the rural landowners; on the contrary, it would go to the towns. The additional police grant for England and Wales amounted to £500,000; of this, £210,000 went to the metropolis, £120,000 to boroughs, making £330,000, and only £170,000 went to the country at large. Therefore, it could not be said that by this additional allowance the landed interests were unduly favoured; neither did he (Mr. Fell) desire that they should be. The towns got two-thirds of the grant in respect of the police, and the rest of the country one-third. What the metropolis would get would be equivalent to a rate of 2½d. in the pound; in the boroughs the relief would average a rate of 1½8;d.; and in the counties a rate of ⅝d. The financial proposals of the Government, therefore, did justice to urban populations, and showed no preference for owners and occupiers of land in the country. With regard to lunatics, the concession of 4s. per lunatic in England and Wales was supposed to be equivalent to one-half the cost of maintenance; but no allowance was made for the cost of buildings, and £3,300,000 had been sunk by counties in lunatic asylums within the last 20 years. The money had been borrowed at an average rate of 4½ per cent; and it would be a great boon to counties, and to such boroughs also as had lunatic asylums, if money could be borrowed from the Public Loan Commissioners in respect of these buildings. The outstanding loans of local authorities amounted to £44,000,000, and yet they went on borrowing and expending without it being the duty of any Minister to impose a check upon them. He, therefore, rejoiced to hear the remarks which fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the salutary influence which had been exercised by the Chambers of Agriculture in checking additional charges on ratepayers. The value of the concessions just made should be compared with the additional charges recently imposed upon local taxation. Within the last 10 years, £1,250,000 had been added to the expenditure out of local taxation; £680,000 was for police; £330,000—exactly the amount now given—for lunatics; and £55,000 for vaccination. In addition, within the last two years, £162,000 had been paid for education, and £23,000 for sanitary purposes. These additions were equivalent to a rate of 3d. in the pound, and the concessions were equivalent to a rate of 1¾d. in the pound, and these new charges had been imposed on a fund supplied wholly by rates. The late Government were very much to blame for not taking up the question of local taxation earlier than they did; while as to the waste of power alleged by the late Prime Minister, in the way these grants had been made, without taking securities for better administration, he did not think the local governments, suffering as they did from new charges, were quite in a temper to receive conditional propositions with much favour. He was glad to learn that the proposals of the Government in relation to this matter were not confined to grants of money from the Imperial Exchequer. He understood they were inclined to deal with the question of administration, and there he looked for more important results than from grants of money, for it was not to be expected that justice could be done to the subject until the jumble and mess of the existing state of things should be met by a better system of administration. He believed that millions of money raised by local rates were lost through want of more intelligent and harmonious administration. Whose fault was that? It was the fault of each succeeding Government, who had left this subject untouched until at length they had been stimulated to bring it forward by the ratepayers in the country. In any reforms that might be carried out in respect to administration, he would urge that it would be well that, the present small rating areas and petty sessional divisions should be amalgamated, so as to form larger districts, and that these should be placed under some authorities of more importance than the present Boards of Guardians, and more able and willing to give their attention to the matter. He would conclude by saying that in urging reform in regard to local taxation, the country people had acted a not unworthy or unintelligent part, and the towns had to thank them for the initiative which they had taken.
said, he approved the aid proposed to be given by the central authority in the case of lunatic asylums; but he wished chiefly to call attention to the subvention in aid of the police rate. With regard to the police force, there was a minimum of local control as compared with the expenditure authorized for other local purposes. Virtually, the state and efficiency of the police depended upon the central authority. When the Government subvention amounted to one-half the expense of the force, he thought its efficiency should be thoroughly investigated. There might be fewer superior officers compared with the number of men in the different districts, and the whole charge and management of the police, he thought, might be taken by the Central Government. Its efficiency would in that way be much improved. The additional means which might be requisite to carry out his proposal would be supplied by a small tax on lands held by corporate bodies, who were free from succession duty, calculated at 2½ per cent of the rental, or 6d. in the pound. These properties would be relieved by the aid granted to local taxes, and it was undesirable to encourage the holding of land by Corporate bodies. There could be no more Conservative policy than that the number of proprietors of land should be increased. He regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not done more towards reducing the National Debt. This country had recently enjoyed years of great national prosperity, and now that so many taxes had been repealed, the duty of a further reduction of the National Debt should not be altogether lost sight of, especially when it was considered that this country owed a larger number of years' purchase of the Revenue than almost any other country in Europe, excepting France, Portugal, Greece, and Turkey. He trusted that the surplus of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be encroached upon by Supplementary Estimates, and that the Government would bear in mind the importance of economy in the national expenditure.
said, he was happy in bearing testimony to the frank, clear, and satisfactory statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it was the more satisfactory because the Budget was provisional in some of its more important points. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), in commenting upon the reduction of 1d. in the income tax, took it as a declaration that the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended that the income tax should be entirely removed at a subsequent stage. He (Mr. Hubbard) did not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said anything to justify that remark, and if the right hon. Gentleman had heard the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or if he had read it more carefully, he would have found that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had most carefully guarded himself against the supposition that in any proposal they now made, the Government gave up their right to consider with entire freedom either the reconstruction, or the abolition of the income tax. He approved the reduction of 1d. precisely because it left the entire question of the income tax free and open for the consideration of the Government and the House in a future Session. The Chancellor of the Exchequer only made one slip—namely, when he spoke of the interest of the Debtas£26,700,000. The interest of the Funded Debt was £21,700,000; the other £5,000,000 were Terminable Annuities, of which £1,500,000 were interest, and£3,500,000 were capital redeemed. It was consolatory to remember that when the country was paying off these Annuities, it was also paying off the Debt itself. As, however, these Terminable Annuities approached towards extinction the redemption of debt became heavier. The Savings Banks Commissioners were now re-investing £3,500,000 on account of the Terminable Annuities which would be extinguished in 1885. As time went on the sum redeemed would rise to £4,000,000, and in the last year of all it would amount to £4,500,000. There would be much inconvenience in further increasing the already large liquidation of the Funded Debt provided for in 1885, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was right in suggesting that the year 1885 should not be burdened by any further amount of these Terminable Annuities. If this system of paying off the National Debt by means of Terminable Annuities were to be followed out, it should be carefully watched. He (Mr. Hubbard) had objected to the manner in which these operations had been proposed, and would only now remark that even for a good purpose, no Chancellor of the Exchequer had a right to give a deceptive character to a financial operation, and that a fraud, even if it were a pious fraud, was not to be admired either in religion or finance. If, however, the country had accepted this mode of dealing with the National Debt, the most convenient mode was to carry it on continuously year by year. As the Debt became liquidated an additional amount of Terminable Annuities should be created, expiring in the year following 1885, so that the operations of the present year should be invested, not in Consols, but in a new amount of Terminable Annuities, expiring in 1886, to be followed by a further amount expiring in 1887. By that means the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have a regular succession of payments falling due each year, and insuring the extinction of a certain amount of Debt. Hitherto, these operations had been of a fitful description; but if they were to become part of our financial system, they should assume a regular character. It would tend to the con- venience both of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the National Debt Commissioners that the latter should be saved from the investment of too large an amount in one particular year. The present Budget being one of a provisional character, the House and the country must be looking forward to a Budget of a very different character next year; there was a great field for investigation before them into the whole subject of our Revenue, the way in which it was raised, the property on which it was raised, and the conditions of that Revenue generally; in fact, the whole question of local and Imperial taxation required to be reconsidered, and it was one well deserving of attention before another year. In conclusion, knowing the great interest and zeal which the hon. Gentleman had always shown with regard to these subjects he desired to express his satisfaction that the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had returned to the House to take part in these discussions upon our financial policy.
said, that the question of local taxation was by no means of a novel character, and had received a great deal of attention during the last quarter of a century. It was, however, in an unsatisfactory state, not only as respected the amount of taxation, but more especially as regarderd the management of the expenditure. From the numerous boards and parties mixed up in the affairs, many of whom were irresponsible for raising the funds and only charged with the duty of expending money levied by others, the natural result followed of waste and confusion in the expenditure of the people's money. He could not agree with what had been said in favour of increased advances from the Consolidated Fund in relief of the local ratepayers. He viewed this aid from the Imperial Treasury to be a dangerous precedent, and one that would lead, as it had done, to carelessness and extravagance in spending. He considered it of great importance to improve the control over all local taxation and expenditure, and trusted that the Home Secretary would examine the Bills brought in in 1837 and 1849 by Mr. Hume, and especially Mr. Milner Gibson's Bill of 1852 upon County Financial Boards. The whole amount now contributed, or proposed to be contributed, towards local taxation from the Consolidated Fund amounted to £3,750,000, or as much as was to be raised by the income tax the House ought to know how far that transfer was to go on, and he trusted that the Government would pause before they allowed the Consolidated Fund to be drawn upon for objects of local expenditure. The Treasury were paying £1,750,000 towards the police of Great Britain, and altogether a sum of about £2,500,000 was contributed towards the police of the whole country. An examination of the annual Reports on the police of counties and boroughs would show that the police force had nearly doubled in strength since 1856. The principle should be adopted of either maintaining the police out of the local rates alone, or, if out of the Consolidated Fund, of having a vigilant supervision exercised over them both in point of numbers and of pay by the Government, for a steady increase had been going on in their numbers and pay, and that increase was still proceeding. Indeed, at the present time the total strength of the police in the United Kingdom must be nearly 40,000, judging by the expenditure; but it was difficult for a private Member to ascertain the number or actual outlay. It was a subject well deserving more attention. He heartily thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the excellent Budget, on the whole, he had brought in, and he hoped that with a good Budget next year they would also have an improved system of administration of local taxation. He, however, greatly regretted that the tax on sheep dogs and guns had not been abolished, for the farmers of Scotland were anxious for the remission, and felt the wrong inflicted on the farming industry at a time when all other industries were freed from fiscal burthens, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider that matter before next year. The abolition of the sugar duty would be a great boon to the agricultural interest, for no part of agricultural business was more profitable than the feeding of cattle, and the abolition of the sugar duty would enable farmers to use sugar more largely in the feeding of tattle, and thus in two years render cattle fit for food, instead of, as usually, requiring three years to rear cattle on the ordinary food.
said, he was sorry that the Government had not devoted a greater amount to the relief of local taxation, for he thought this was a time when the agricultural interest might suffer very much, not only from the price of labour, which was high, and still rising, but from the Unions, which would paralyze, if continued, the whole system of agriculture in the country. Many burdens were about to be put on the agricultural community with reference to local government and sanitary improvement which it had not hitherto felt, among which were the maintenance of the highways, and the Sanitary Acts which were still in the infancy of their operation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer slightly alluded to the labourer's dwelling. That was a question of the greatest importance, for it was only in a few counties, and certainly not in that part of the country which he had the honour to represent, that cottages were in a fit state for the labouring population, and he expected that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have grappled with that question. The erection of suitable cottages was a very expensive affair. There could be no return for the outlay, and many estates were so tied up that it was impossible for the tenant for life to raise a fund for the erection of suitable cottages. Acts had been passed to facilitate their erection, but the whole machinery was so expensive that it had not had that effect which was absolutely necessary for the health and prosperity of the labouring class. He thought it was absolutely necessary that the provisions of the Sanitary Acts should be put into operation, so as to shut up the cottages which were not fit for human habitation. Moreover, if cottages were not built in which labourers could live in decency and comfort, it was natural they would become members of Agricultural Labourers Unions and listen to agitators who would tell them that if they emigrated they would soon become rich, and owners of property, and offer them inducements to separate themselves from their employers, It would be a bad day, in his opinion, for English agriculture when the relations between the labourer and the farmer, or the landlord, should be regulated simply by commercial consideration. He was sorry that another year would be allowed to pass before the question of local taxa- tion would be dealt with. The agricultural population would not be satisfied with the small boon that had been given to them, and he hoped that next year the right hon. Gentleman would afford them that relief to which they thought they were entitled.
Sir, I would not have occupied the time of the House with any remarks on the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had he not, when speaking of the large revenue derived from spirits, and the possibility that in some future day the revenue from spirits might be reduced, made use of the following words:—
and when I add to these words, the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot), who said he wished a gradual reduction of the malt tax, "for if the agriculturists received the franchise they would denounce a duty on one of their chief articles of consumption." It appears to me, Sir, that that language means that the injustice, that the people of Scotland and Ireland, and also the distillers of these two countries, have for 14 years submitted to, is to be aggravated and perpetuated. I, therefore, as a Scotchman and as a Scotch Representative, feel it my duty to call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the House to the existing inequality of the taxation on the national beverages of England, Ireland, and Scotland; but before doing so, I would in the first place, Sir beg to offer my humble congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman upon the equitable manner in which he has distributed the large surplus, which the industry of the people and the unparalleled prosperity of the nation has put at his disposal. I am amused to hear hon. Members on that side of the House speak of this surplus as a bequest front the late Administration to the present. The merit of having a surplus belongs no more to that side of the House than to this. It is the product of the expenditure of the nation upon the luxuries of life arising from high wages and great manufacturing profits—in which I am sorry to say the cotton trade has not participated. But however that may be, there can be no doubt that the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with it has given very general satisfaction. Of course, we cannot expect unanimity on such a subject—many men, many minds. Some would have preferred larger provisions for the reduction of our National Debt; some the abolition of the income tax; others the relieving of all incomes below £300 front the tax. I myself had hoped that shepherds' dogs would have been exempted from the dog tax, and that farmers would have been allowed to use a gun for the protection of their crops without paying the gun tax. All these suggestions may be good in themselves, and I have no doubt will receive the attention of the right hon. Gentleman on a future occasion; but, in the meantime, the country seems to approve of the selection that has been made of the articles that are to be relieved of taxation. No part of these proposals were received more cordially by the Committee than when the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the claims of the brewers, and especially when he was interrupted by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass), who has the distinguished honour of being the king of that most flourishing trade. The Committee felt that the brewers' claim was unreal and groundless. Now, what is the nature of this great trade of brewing—one of the most important and most prosperous trades in the country? It is the converting by fermentation of malt, sugar, molasses, and other saccharine matter into alcohol. The product has many names, porter, stout, ale, beer, and I have no doubt many others I am not familiar with. It is a business analogous to distilling, but stops short at the last process, leaving the alcohol in the mother liquor. The object of the brewer and distiller is exactly the same—to provide alcohol in many forms for the drink of the people. Let us see now how those trades have been dealt with of late years, as to taxation, and what they contribute to the national funds according to the quantity of alcohol they produce and sell. The distillers pay now five times what the brewers pay for the same amount of alcohol. These, Sir, are the illused class of men who have been knocking at the door of the Treasury for relief. But how is it with the consumer of these drinks? Out of every 2s. spent on whisky, in which there are five gills of proof spirits, the consumer pays 1s. 6d. to the Revenue, while from the consumer of 2s. worth of beer, in which there are 4½ gills of proof spirits, the Revenue receives only 3d. The consumer of spirits pays thus six times the amount that the beer consumer pays to the Imperial Exchequer. Sir, I ask the House, I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is that just to the consumer of spirits; is it just to the revenue; and, above all, is it just to the people of Scotland and Ireland, whose national beverage is whisky? Why should the Scotch and Irish pay six times the amount of duty that the English do, for the form in which they prefer to drink their alcohol? I shall be told that the curse of Scotland is that the people drink so much whisky; that it leads to drunkenness, to poverty, crime, premature death. Well, Sir, I am not here to deny that many of the Scotch nation might with advantage drink less. As much may be said in the case of England and Ireland. But, do statistics bear out those sweeping allegations? Are our poor rates heavier; are offences against the law more numerous? Is our death rate greater? Quite the reverse. Our poor rates are considerably less than in England; our crime is less; and our death-rate per 1,000 is about 2 per cent less than England. The most important question, however, is, do we in Scotland drink more alcohol than England? Quite the reverse. The people of England consume about 50 per cent more alcohol than the people of Scotland, and 100 per cent more than the people of Ireland. The statistics for 1873 are—"You may say that that is a very dangerous thing to rely upon. It is dangerous and not very pleasant, I admit, to rely upon the increase in the consumption of spirits as a source of future Revenue. It may also be said that the time may come when a check will come and that source of Revenue may fail you. I have asked myself—how is it that you expect this some of Revenue will fail, what will be the cause of its falling off, and why should not spirits be able to bear—and it is quite possible they might be able to bear—an increased amount of taxation, without diminishing the consumption. That is one source of Revenue which is still open to us upon an emergency;"
|England||6˙689||Gallons per head of proof spirits, as contained in whisky, gin, brandy, rum, ale, beer, porter, &c.|
concurred in the agreeable criticisms on the Budget which they had recently heard from the right hon. Gentleman the late head of the Govern- ment. These criticisms might have been expected to have had not only the support of hon. Members on the Government side of the House, but the whole Budget might have been expected to meet with their grateful approval instead of the feelings of disappointment expressed. He looked with something like astonishment on the arguments adduced by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr-Ewing) who had just sat clown. If he understood the hon. Member rightly, the argument was that the 3,000,000 of people in Scotland were very temperate in the use of spirits, while the 22,000,000 in England were very intemperate in their use, and that therefore the duty on spirits ought to be reduced. He could not follow this reasoning.
said, he could not see that he gave the hon. Member any reason to suppose that he argued for a reduction on the spirit duty. His remarks had relation to the high duty on spirits, and the comparatively small duty on beer.
And therefore that the duty should be increased on beer. He commended this argument to his hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass). He would congratulate his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the views which he appeared to entertain on this question. The feeling of the country and the late debate had given him possession of the duty on the malt for as many years as he chose to keep it, and no doubt he would keep it with satisfaction to himself and the country at large. Apart from this point, the object of his rising was to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to one question of local taxation which he might have to adjust, and that was the hardships falling on agricultural interests in neighbourhood of towns. Local taxation was falling very heavily on towns at the present moment. There were sewage works going on, building, and other local improvements. It was, therefore, a difficult matter to put more taxation on these towns; but whilst those large works were going on in towns, there also happened to be changes in their vicinity, such as the abolition of all the turnpike gates, laying greatly increased rates, sometimes amounting to 2d. and 3d. in the pound, on farmers in the immediate neighbourhood of these towns. With regard to the abolition of the duty on horses, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman in taking the duty off had done much towards the improved breeding of horses. It would decidedly encourage the farmer in the breeding of horses. It would, no doubt, please those who kept horses for other than trade purposes; but to those who did so the duty was not so much a matter of importance. The abolition of the duty would most affect the convenience and comfort of the people at large—those—and they were by far the largest number—who kept horses essentially for trade purposes. It was, perhaps, not an over-calculation to say that nine-tenths of the horses were kept for purposes of trade; there could be no doubt that the tax was essentially a tax on the industry of the country. He had been almost alarmed when he heard the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer quailing before the eloquence of the hon. Member for Kincardineshire (Mr. Barclay) on the subject of the gun tax. If he recollected aright, a special clause had been inserted in a measure that had been before the House, as to the farmer's right to use a gun for the purpose of scaring away birds; but the indiscriminate possession of untaxed firearms was not desirable. Along with other gentlemen, he had waited on the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in order to ask him to put a tax on guns, and he considered there was good reason for the request. They had made that request, because they found that some of the people in their northern districts were rather prone to use firearms. Some of these people of the Celtic race carried revolvers, which were brought out whilst they were in drink, and, being fired across the road, men were hit who were never intended to be hit. He looked upon the tax on firearms, therefore, as a useful tax. With regard to the tax on dogs, he agreed with those who thought it should be retained and increased, with the exception of shepherd dogs. In the border counties of Northumberland and Durham there were a large number of freehold farms as well as leasehold, and many of these farms were but small, embracing some 15 or 20 acres, and the farmers kept sheep on adjoining commons, and with their limited incomes often found the tax upon the shepherd dogs a perceptible increase in their rents. He would therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to think whether he could not give some relief to these and other farmers similarly placed, by removing the tax so far as sheep-dogs are concerned. These dogs were not formerly taxed when all others were taxed, and the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Lowe) had taxed all dogs alike, including shepherd dogs; but it seemed to him that they might with great propriety tax sporting dogs to a larger extent, and all other dogs kept for pleasure, and allow these useful trade dogs to go free.
regretted that a better opportunity had not been given to the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wiltshire (Sir George Jenkinson) to discuss the question of turnpikes the other night. That subject of local taxation, with respect to which there existed great ground of complaint, had been well thrashed out by discussion in the Chambers of Agriculture, which were rapidly becoming provincial Parliaments, and he trusted the Government would turn their attention to it. It was obviously impossible to get this country to assent to a system of octroi duties such as prevailed in foreign countries, and it was equally impossible to adopt a graduated system of rental for taxation. With regard to the proposal to have a separate Schedule in the income tax for local purposes, it was clear that that tax was in course of extinction. Thus there remained only two modes of solving the difficulty—the one adopted by the Government last year, of charging on the Consolidated Fund the police, the lunatics, and, perhaps, in the future the administration of justice; and the other was the scheme proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Wiltshire. On the whole, the agricultural interest had reason to congratulate themselves on the right hon. Gentleman's Budget. They were, at all events, saved from the solemn warnings of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, who said they were unwise to raise the question in so large a manner. He was glad they were no longer treated to warnings of that kind. He could not, however, concur with the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease), who thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done justice by the manner in which local taxation had been lightened by a subvention in aid of the maintenance of lunatics in public asylums. The proposal might be accepted temporarily, as a step in the right direction; but in another year he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to a larger measure by which local taxation, which now went into the Imperial Treasury, such as the house tax, would be applied to the relief of local burdens.
thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the remission of the horse duty, which would be a boon to a great many persons, and would eventually tend to the improvement of the breed of horses. But then he wished to call attention to an effect which the remission might have. One of the inducements to young farmers for entering the Yeomanry had been the exemption from the horse duty; but now when there would be no longer a duty of the kind, it was feared they would not be so eager to join the service. He would ask the Secretary of State for War to consider whether some other inducement could not be held out to them to do so.
said, he could not help regretting that no sensible impression would be made on the Debt by the proposals of the Government, more especially when it was considered how favourable was the opportunity that now presented itself of doing so. Perhaps the reason for it was that it was thought desirable some concession should be made to the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) that one "ancient monument" should be preserved, and that one our National Debt. There was one danger which was always connected with the question of local taxation, which was that the amount had always been indirectly determined by persons who had no interest whatever in the payment of the taxes. Take the case of a lunatic asylum with 300 patients, for whom the Government would give 4s. a-head or £60 a-year. But suppose an Inspector went down and said the accommodation was not sufficient, and, to carry out some crotchets, required a large outlay to be made, it might well happen that the benefit to the local taxpayer would be very small, or would disappear altogether. Sydney Smith had said that every one would be a good Samaritan but for the oil and twopence. When the Inspector went down he had not to give either the oil or the twopence, and nothing was more agreeable than to give advice and recommend other people to pay the cost of it. The benefit to local taxpayers did not depend upon the amount of relief granted by the Legislature, but on the amount of the requirements made.
trusted that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not pay attention to suggestions for the remission of the dog tax. The only fault of that tax was, that it was too small, and fostered the existence of a vast number of useless animals, which did an infinite deal of mischief in a small way, and were a nuisance to all their neighbours. He had received several letters complaining of useless dogs, which went about barking at people's heels, and besides did an infinity of mischief, and he knew a village of some 500 inhabitants in which there were between 70 and 80 dogs, which roamed about the country to the great annoyance of the neighbourhood. A suggestion had been made to him whether it would not be possible to double the dog tax, but to grant exemptions in favour of shepherds' dogs and other useful agricultural dogs, just as there had been an exemption in favour of agricultural horses, and he thought it a reasonable proposition. With regard to the Budget he regretted that his right hon. Friend had not adhered to the ordinary mode of calculating the revenue which gave a surplus of £4,000,000 only. His estimated addition of £1,500,000 from continuing increment, and another £500,000 from repayment of advances, was novel and untried; and with a falling trade this was not the year to make a new experiment of that kind. As a mere matter of calculation, he dared say his right hon. Friend was quite right in the estimated increase of the Revenue; but, in spite of the sanguine expectations of the Revenue officers, looking to the present condition of the trade of the country, he doubted the propriety of anticipating it this year, and feared that in the end it might be necessary to re-impose taxes which had been prematurely taken off, while if the estimate were realized, it might very well be applied in reducing the National Debt, which still amounted to between 700 and 800 millions, and which, in these days of extraordinary prosperity, and while our coalfields were yet comparatively unexhausted, it was our duty to make some sensible impression upon. It would have been wiser not to have touched the horse duty until the tax on railway passengers could be spared; it was a question whether the passenger tax should be entirely abolished, but it was indefensible to punish railway companies for carrying third-class passengers by all their trains, and he had hoped to have seen the Government withdraw this year from the untenable position they had taken up in this respect.
said, that in his county (Perthshire) the dog tax was really intolerable, because it was necessary for a farmer to keep more than one dog to preserve the breed. Even at a time when everything was taxed, Mr. Pitt was careful to exempt shepherds' dogs, and he hoped his example would have influence now.
said, that in his county (Northumberland) the increase in the number of dogs had become a nuisance, and he had presented a very numerously signed Petition praying the House to take some steps to prevent the increase of mischievous and useless dogs, and complaining of the smallness of the tax. There was no animal that became such a depredator as a sheep dog, and when control over him was lost, he would worry sheep by the hundred. In fact, the superabundance of dogs was becoming a serious check upon the production of sheep.
said, that when hon. Members talked of the destruction of dogs, he thought he heard a shudder from the invisible regions of the House. In his opinion the tax on dogs ought to be increased, and their owners should be compelled by law to put collars on them, with their (the owners') names inscribed thereon. He approved of the abolition of the duties on horses. He thought the Government would find its reward in the cheaper rate at which they would get troop horses for the cavalry, as the abolition of the tax would most certainly lead to a large increase in the breeding of horses. On the whole he approved of the Budget. It was impossible for a Ministry called into existence at such a short notice to deal with everything. It was better to begin moderately, but another year he trusted they would enlarge their phylacteries, and produce something extensive enough to satisfy all classes of the community.
hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be unduly swayed by the bad character given to the dogs of Northumberland, which could hardly be the genuine Scotch collies and the well-known sheep dogs of Northumberland and Westmoreland. There were many farmers in the hilly districts of the country who would not feel the remission of the horse duty anything like so great a relief as they would the exemption of dogs.
said, he could assure the House that sheep clogs and taxed dogs generally had given him more trouble than almost any other subject. To settle a proper system of taxation on dogs, taxing those that ought to be taxed, and not taxing those that should not be taxed, was something like the attempt to balance an egg on its end, which even Columbus could not do till he broke the egg. A suggestion had been thrown out the other evening that the tax might be treated somewhat as a local tax; and he then said he would consider it with the gun tax, and see whether there was any possibility of dealing with the two together. With regard to the other questions he did not mean to detain the House after the rather desultory but useful and interesting conversation which had been held; but he must express his obligations to hon. Gentlemen for the favourable way in which they had spoken of the proposals in the Budget. He could only say with reference to the gloomy predictions of his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Heygate), he still hoped that things would not be so bad as he appeared to anticipate. For himself, he must say he should not have been acting honestly by the House, if he had taken the Estimates lower than he had done, and he should have been committing a pious fraud, had he pretended to believe that the surplus would be smaller than he really believed it would be. With regard to what had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard) on the subject of Terminable Annuities, anything which fell from him on such a subject must command great respect and attention. He was very glad to find that his hon. Friend in general approved the system of reducing Debt by way of Terminable Annuities. The practical suggestion which he had thrown out well deserved consideration, and might possibly form the basis of a scheme of more general character than had yet been adopted, for he quite agreed as to the inconvenience of having too large a sum coming into the hands of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt for re-investment. Hon. Gentlemen who spoke slightingly of what was being done for the reduction of the Debt seemed hardly aware of the fact that the interest of the Debt was not £26,000,000, but rather £21,500,000, a considerable portion of the remainder being really redemption of the Debt. In reality, we were paying off £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year, to which we were now adding another £500,000 for the redemption of Debt in the next 10 years. With regard to what had been said by the hon. Baronet the Member for East Devon (Sir Lawrence Palk), the Government did propose to proceed on the question of local administration by taking up a rating Bill, which would shortly be introduced. He must thank his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) for his very judicious and friendly remarks on improvements in administration, to which he attached great importance. Much, no doubt, might be done by improvement in administration, quite as much, perhaps, as by subvention in aid of local taxation, and that was the plan the Government proposed to adopt. He was sorry the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wiltshire (Sir George Jenkinson) had not a better opportunity the other night of discussing the horse duty and its transfer to the relief of turnpike trusts; but it would be impossible to assent to such a proposal. All that could be done would be to decline to take off the horse duty, and that would not have been in accordance with the general feeling of the House or with the opinion of the Government as to the disadvantage and burden of the tax. To apply it to the maintenance of turnpikes would have been impossible, and it would be extremely difficult to devise a plan to apply the proceeds of one tax to get rid of another. It would be far better not to encumber the proceedings of the House by such an attempt, which would be going back to the old system of finance. He might take this opportunity of saying, with regard to the horse duty, that a suggestion was made the other night by the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) as to the time at which that duty should expire. As the Resolution now stood, the horse duty would cease on the 1st of January next. With regard to the proposal it referred to a matter of no fiscal importance, because licences were taken out for the year on the 1st of January, and probably not above £5,000 or £10,000 could be expected to come into the Exchequer from horse licences taken out during the remainder of the year; but parties might, in the interval, unwittingly bring themselves within the letter of the law, and therefore he proposed that the duty should determine on the 1st of July in the present year, instead of the 1st of January next. When the Resolution was read therefore he should move that it be amended in that respect.
thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his concession. He thought the abolition of the horse duty would have a beneficial effect on the breeding of horses in this country, which at present was seriously on the decline. He hoped on a future occasion to bring the whole of the subject under the attention of the House.
First Resolution agreed to.
Second Resolution read a second time, and amended, by leaving out the word "January," and inserting the word "July." and by leaving out "seventy-five," and inserting "seventy-four."
Resolution, as amended, agreed to.
Subsequent Resolutions agreed to.
Resolutions which on the 23rd day of this instant April were reported from the Committee of Ways and Means, and then agreed to by the House, read:—
Bill or Bills upon the said Resolutions, and upon the Resolutions now reported and agreed to by the House, ordered to be brought in by Mr. RAIKES, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, and Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH.