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8400/. In the town represented by my noble Friend who takes so much interest in this question (Lord Duncan, Member for Bath), which I am afraid is not so fashionable as it used to be, the relief afforded will be in greater proportion than in the cases I have already referred to, for the charge for duty will be reduced from 23,000/. to 7500/. The greatest amount of relief will be afforded in the case of those houses which have a larger number of windows or openings than is proportionate to their annual value." The grand result would be, that of the 0,500,000 houses in the kingdom, 3,100,000 would be exempt, and the tax levied only on 400,000 of the most valuable houses.
The combined loss from the reductions on coffee and timber (400,000/.) and from the windowduty (1,186,0(10/.) would be 1,536,000/.; and this would leave a margin of surplus amounting to only ,356,000/.: or, with the Window Tax due for the current halfyear (568,000/.), a surplus for that year of 024,000/. towards any unforeseen demand.
In conclusion, Sir Charles referred to the Opposition tactics on the Income Tax. He admitted that the tax was imposed to meet a deficiency; but it was continued for a different purpose—to enable an improvement to be made in financial legislation, still unaccomplished, by the removal of impolitic restrictions on industry and commerce.
This statement was received by the House with considerably more approbation than the original budget. Mr. Herries, however, complained that the motion respecting the Income Tax, of which he had given notice for the 7th in
stant, should have been forestalled by anticipatory objections; but he hoped the House would pause before it consented to make that tax perpetual, as was involved in the propositions before them. Mr. Henley remarked on the contrast between the high-flown principles announced respecting public credit and the maintenance of a surplus, with the reservation of such a miserable sum as 300,000/.
After some sarcastic remarks by Mr. Disraeli on the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having forgotten his sympathy with the agricultural interest because he was laughed at for the insignificance of his boons, the House agreed to the pro forma resolution of continuing the Income Tax and the Stamp Duties in Ireland as moved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
On the 7th of April the report on this resolution by the Committee of Ways and Means having been brought up, Mr. Herries raised the question of the continuance of the Income Tax by proposing a resolution in the follow iug terms:—
"That the Income and Property Tax, and the Stamp Duties in Ireland, were granted for limited periods, and to meet temporary exigencies; and that it is expedient to adhere to the declared intentions of Parliament, and, in order to secure their speedy cessation, to limit the renewal of any portion of those taxes to such an amount as may suffice to provide for the expenditure sanctioned by Parliament, and for the maintenance of public credit."
Mr. Herries expressed his great satisfaction at the published statement of the year's revenue, the result of which had exceeded the calculations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; he rejoiced at this result, because it not only indicated the prosperity of the country, but reinforced the proposition he now made. He would assume the data of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with this difference— that he expected a larger surplus, believing that, instead of 1,892,000/., it would turn out 2,200,000/. or 2,300,000/. He assumed, further, that Sir C. Wood meant to continue the Income Tax as it now existed. This was the first legitimate occasion, Mr. Hemes remarked, of considering this tax under the aspect of a permanent impost: it had originally arisen out of the financial mal-administration during the five or six years prior to 1840; but Sir R. Peel originally proposed the tax expressly for special and temporary purposes; and Lord John Russell—who had previously proclaimed " the inequality, the vexations, and the frauds" inherent in this tax—in 1848 asked for its •continuance solely on the ground of "the almost unparalleled difficulties" of the crisis. Mr. Herries cited strong denunciations of the tax by Mr. Labouchere, Lord Howick, Sir F. Baring, and Sir C. Wood, and called upon the Government to state the grounds upon which, without necessity, with a surplus revenue, they proposed the continuance of a tax admitted to be full of inequality, vexations, and fraud, and which there could be no doubt would, in violation of the obligation which the House had contracted with the country, be made permanent. He then stated what would be the effect of affirming his motion. Assuming the real surplus for 1851 at 2,200,000/., he thought that two-sevenths of the Property Vol. XCIII.
Tax might be remitted, which would be a relief to the extent of 1,550,000/., far greater than the removal of the Window Tax, and it would afford a prospect of the ultimate extinction of an impost denounced and stigmatized by those who now recommended its continuance.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer maintained that his proposal to continue this tax, which he disliked as much as ever, was perfectly consistent with the policy of Sir R. Peel, which it was intended to carry out to its full extent. Almost the whole of Mr. Hemes' argument, he observed, had proceeded upon the supposition that the proposal which he (Sir Charles) had made was for a permanent Income Tax, whereas he had never said a syllable to that effect. He did not think it safe that a tax of this kind should be placed upon the footing of an annual vote; but Mr. Herries was not precluded from proposing its reduction next year. He showed the difficulties attending the modification of the tax, and the injustice of applying it, as Mr. Herries suggested, to Ireland; and then entered into details as to the policy he had pursued in reducing duties upon articles of consumption and upon industry; observing, that the more popular a tax was the more productive it would prove. Under the Income Tax, the revenue had, by a wise legislation, greatly improved; and by a perseverance in this legislation—the removal of taxes more objectionable than the Income Tax—the improvement of the revenue would be accelerated. It was in furtherance of this theory of legislation that he had proposed the reduction of the duties upon coffee and timber, and
substituted a House Tax for the Window Duty. He had been charged with having withdrawn a boon he had offered to the agricultural interest; but the repeal of the duty upon seeds had been denounced, and the relief in the matter of pauper lunatics was less than the gain by the commutation of the Window Duty. In conclusion, he insisted that the proposal of Mr. Herries was really the first step in the policy of Lord Stanley, who had therein shadowed forth a duty upon corn; and he called upon the House to vote, not a permanent Income Tax, but a tax for three years, for objects conducive to the best interests of the country.
Mr. Prinsep observed that the Government, whether there was a surplus or a deficiency, were always in difficulty, because they had to deal with taxation, and, as they had not any fixed principles, they were like a ship at sea without compass. He denied that the budget was founded upon the principle professed by the Government —the benefit of the mass of the population; on the contrary, it was class relief. He disputed the economical theory of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was not, he contended, fairly carried into practice. He condemned upon principle a tax upon property; and, objecting altogether to the propositions of the Government, he should vote for the motion of Mr. Herries.
Mr. F. Peel said the conclusion he had brought his mind to obliged him to dissent from the amendment of Mr. Herries, while he was unable to express his unqualified approval of the financial policy of Her Majesty 8 Government. The statement of the Chancellor
of the Exchequer showed a net deficiency, laying aside the Income Tax, of about 847,000/. for the present year, and of about 3,500,000/. in future years; and it was to cover this deficiency he invited the House to reimpose the Income Tax for three years. He (Mr. Peel) was favourable to the principle of an Income Tax, which combined the principle of indirect and direct taxation, making the wealthy classes pay their due proportion towards the public expenditure. He was aware of the immense advantages which the labouring classes had derived from our late commercial and financial system, and of the stimulus given to industry by the removal of duties which weighed upon the sources of employment . In nine years, taxes upon home manufactures, raw materials, and food, to the amount of 10,500,000/. had been remitted; while the great branches of the revenue remained as large as in 1842; and the declared value of British exports, which had been nearly stationary from 1835 to 1842, had rapidly increased from 52,250,000/. in 1843, to more than 71,000,000/. in 1850. There still remained a large amount of indirect taxation which pressed upon the productive classes; and the inference was, that if 5,000,000/. were not raised by direct taxation, the Legislature must in effect revert to the system of protection, which had so loug obstructed the development of our resources. Mr. Herries had alleged that the faith of Parliament was pledged to discontinue this tax after a limited period; but he (Mr. Peel) took a preliminary objection to Parliament entering into a compact of this kind. The policy of 1841, under which the Income Tax had been imposed, was to remove duties more vexatious than that tax; this policy had not been brought to a conclusion, and he could not, therefore, vote for the removal of the tax. The inducements which the Government held out for its continuance were, that it would enable them to repair a deficit, retain a surplus, and remove taxation. Mr. Peel examined these several reasons, and with respect to the removal of the Window Tax, which would not directly benefit the working classes, he could not, he said, approve the abandonment of that duty, which was a direct tax paid in the proportion of expenditure, the very point sought to be arrived at by a modification of the Income Tax. Regarding this tax as a great lever to elevate the moral and social condition of the country, he should be most reluctant to relinquish an implement by which so much good had been and might be effected.
Mr. T. Baring justified the remarks he had made on a former occasion, and with respect to the Income Tax expressed his belief that its reduction would be better even for the masses than the removal of the Window Duty. The evidence of the returns under schedule D showed that it was the honest men who paid the tax, while the dishonest escaped. Considering the partial character of the tax, he should vote for the amendment, because he believed of the two it was better to reduce the Income Tax than to remove the Window Duty.
Mr. J. Wilson considered, with Mr. Peel, that the true question was, whether the House would consent to reverse the policy of the last ten years. He showed,
from a mass of statistical details, what had been the financial and commercial results of that policy; contrasting the condition of the country before 1842 with its present tranquillity and prosperity. The population depending upon land, he argued, was diminishing; the surplus population depended upon our manufactures. It was, therefore, the interest of the country to remove impediments from that part of the national industry; while a duty of 5s. upon corn, either for protection or for revenue, was open to objection.
Mr. Booker urged upon the House the deep responsibility it would incur by giving to the Government the means of pursuing a suicidal policy, in the reimposition of an iniquitous tax, which bore with peculiar severity upon the middle classes. He protested against the doctrine that the greatness of England depended solely upon her commerce. While emigration was going on to a vast extent, production was increasing, which must not be put down to human labour, but to the enormous increase of mechanical power.
Mr. Slaney, on the other hand, was deeply convinced that it was for the benefit of agriculture that the present liberal system of policy should be upheld, which had relieved the masses of many millions of taxes, and had, in 35 years, doubled the value of the property of the country.
Mr. Spooner called upon Lord J. Russell and Sir C. Wood to explain why they now proposed to continue a tax which in 1845 they denounced as full of inequality, vexation, and fraud, and as pressing upon the labouring population by diminishing the means of giving employment.
Mr. Reynolds supported the amendment. He saw no relief in the budget for the poor, the shopkeeper, or the professional man. He complained of other omissions; for instance, the duties on paper and soap, the repeal of which would increase the means of employment.
Lord C. Hamilton said the real question at issue was, whether this tax was to be permanent. He believed that, under the guise of a renewal for three years, it was intended to be perpetuated. If so, it should be avowed, and the tax should be made equitable.
Mr. S. Crawford, though a friend to a tax upon property, did not feel justified in voting for this tax with all its objections.
Sir R. Inglis said the objections to the inquisitorial character of an Income Tax were the same, whether it was Id. or 2d. in the pound. The question therefore was, whether public credit required the tax; and, considering that an immense amount of taxation might be relieved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan, he reluctantly supported it.
Upon a division, the amendment was negatived by 278 against 230.
The second reading of the Income Tax Bill was moved on the 28th of April, when an opposition to the tax in toto was offered by Mr. Spooner, who moved the postponement of the motion till that day six months. Mr. Spooner quoted equally from the great men of all parties who have dilated upon the oppressiveness and injustice of this tax, including Sir Robert Peel and Lord Stanley himself. Towards the end of his speech he diverged to objections which he entertained to the repeal
of the brick duties and the timber duties; alleging, in respect to the former, that bricks were now within a shilling of the price paid for them before the repeal. Mr. Muntz seconded the motion, grounding his objections to the measure on his experience of its especial effects among the small manufacturers, who were numerous among his constituents: he had known some of these surcharged three and four times without hope of remedy, because an exposure of their books would be an injurious exposure of their concerns. He corrected Mr. Spooner as to bricks, saying he had himself paid 8s. less than he did before. Mr. Freshfield delivered his first remarks in the House upon this measure; his objections seemed to have chief reference to the unfair operation of the tax on tenant farmers. Sir Charles Wood replied, taking advantage of the discrepancy between Mr. Spooner and Mr. Muntz on the price of bricks; putting aside Mr. Freshfield's detailed objections as fitter for the stage of Committee; and reminding the House that, if the Bill were thrown out, there would be a deficiency of one million this year and of three and a half millions next year. The House seemed willing to get rid of the motion easily. On the suggestion, complimentarily conveyed by Mr. Disraeli to the mover, that it was scarcely necessary to divide, Mr. Spooner for a moment consented to withdraw his motion; but, after a pause, said he would prefer to have it negatived, which was done accordingly
A more important discussion arose on the committal of the Bill on the 2nd of May, which was attended with a material result ou