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The estimated revenue was only 263,0001. over the actual receipts of last year, but the expenditure showed a reduction of 2,261,0001., which, he said, was chiefly owing to the heroic efforts of Mr. Childers and Mr. Cardwell, for the Miscellaneous Estimates showed an actual increase of 281,0001. But this, he explained, was more than accounted for by the spontaneous growth of items over which the Government had no control; such as the Education Vote, Superannuation Charges, and the like, and the transfer of items from one account to the other. Comparing the estimated revenue and expenditure of the year 1869-70, there would have been a surplus of 4,632,0001., but for the cost of the Abyssinian War, and this Mr. Lowe said, it would not be safe to put at less than 9,000,0007. Of this, 8,600,0007, had been voted -viz. 2,000,0001. in November, 1867; 3,000,0001. in the last year's Estimates; and 3,600,0001. in February last. But of this sum Ways and Means had only been provided for 4,000,0001., as 1,000,0001. of last year's vote had been borrowed by means of Exchequer bonds, leaving 4,600,0001. still to be met. The surplus, therefore, of the coming year would be about absorbed by the amount due and voted for the Abyssinian War;--at least there would be the surplus of 32,0001. To leave our finances in this condition of equilibrium, with an unelastic revenue, Mr. Lowe held to be unsafe and discreditable; but before stating how he proposed to deal with the revenue, he discussed in a long digression the land and assessed taxes, and particularly the system of collection, which he pronounced to be anomalous, expensive, and vexatious. The defects on which he dwelt principally were their collection in two instalments, and by amateur officials, and he calculated that by collecting them at once, and through the medium of the Excise, at least 100,0001. a year might be saved. The Government thought it desirable that the whole system should be reformed in this sense, and they proposed to convert most of the assessed taxes into licence duties, following the successful precedent of the dog-tax, and to make these duties payable at the beginning of each year, instead of, as now, in two instalments in October and April. They would be paid, too, on a prospective assessment made every January, instead of being, as now, chargeable in one year, assessed in the next, and actually paid in the third. He proposed, also, that the land-tax, the inhabited house duty, and the income-tax, should be paid in one instalment, and at the beginning of the year. The new system, on the advantages of which, as a great administrative reform, he dilated with much force, would come into operation in January, 1870 (no collection being made of the October instalment), and he calculated that before the end of this financial year (March 31, 1870) there would have been paid into the Exchequer 600,0001. of the Excise licences, 950,0001. of the land-tax and assessed taxes, and 1,800,0007. of the income-tax-in all 3,350,0001., which, added to the 32,0001. surplus of revenue over expenditure, would put the Government in possession of a surplus
of 3,382,0007. “What shall we do with this windfall ?” was the question which Mr. Lowe next discussed. And first he stated that as the income tax payers would have to bear the chief inconvenience of the change in the mode of payment, they should be the first benefited. He proposed, therefore, to take off a penny from the income-tax. The shilling duty on corn, amounting to 900,0001., which he held combined in itself all possible objections to a tax, and prevented this country becoming a great entrepôt of corn, would be abolished; and also the fire insurance duties—an announcement which was very favourably received. This last reduction, however, would only be made from Midsummer next. Mr. Lowe next explained with much minuteness a comprehensive scheme for the simplification and revision of the assessed taxes.
He said, “In regard to the tax on armorial bearings, on a carriage on which you pay 31. 108. duty, you pay for armorial bearings 21. 128. 9d. I confess I am not very partial to this tax; but as we cannot get rid of it, I think we had better increase it. I propose to abolish the present duty and to charge 11. 18. for armorial bearings; and if a gentleman likes to put armorial bearings on his carriage, I propose that he shall pay another guinea. This will give an increase of 80001. I next come to the carriages on four wheels. The carriage on four wheels at present, if drawn by two horses, pays as high as 31. 108.; if drawn by one horse, and the wheels are small enough to make it a case of cruelty to animals, it pays
11. We propose to reduce the tax to 21. 28. on four-wheeled carriages. But there is a certain class of four-wheeled carriages drawn by ponies, and which are very much used by invalids and persons advanced in years. Now, one would be very unwilling to put too heavy a tax on these, and we propose that they should be taxed at 158., as a twowheeled carriage. The distinction will be the weight of the carriage, and 3 cwt. has been fixed upon. Then it is proposed to put a tax of 158. on gigs, and on all two-wheeled carriages. At the present there are 190,000 gentlemen who have gigs. The committee will understand that the four-wheeled carriage, if under 3 cwt., will be ranked as a gig. Then there is a tax on horse-dealers, which is also very anomalous. A horse-dealer in London pays a licence duty of 271. This is an assessed tax. In the country he pays only 131. 158., the idea being that the occupation of a horse-dealer is carried on in London on a much larger scale than in the country. That has, I believe, ceased to be the case. It is proposed to reduce the higher rate of this tax, and put a tax of 121. 10s. on each horse-dealer. I now come to another subject, that of servants, for each of which a tax of 11. 18. is paid, and if under eighteen years old, 108. 60. But there are many exceptions, such as those of under-gardeners and gamekeepers. We propose to put a uniform rate of 158. on all servants. I now come to a different branch of the subject. The House will easily anticipate me when I say that I speak of the tax on locomotion. We propose to abolish all exceptional taxes on locomotion. We
shall abolish the distinction between horses kept for pleasure and profit, so as to make all persons pay the same duty for the same kind of carriage. The first item we take is stage-carriages and omnibusses, which pay a duty, if they hold more than eight persons, of 31. 88. They also pay d. a mile. We propose to abolish these duties, and to leave the stage-carriage to pay the duty like any
other carriage. Then, on horses we propose to lower the duty. At present the trade-horse pays 10s. 6d., the gentleman's horse 12. 1s. I do not speak of race-horses, which are too high game for me to fly at. Now, as the horse is the principal means of locomotion, and will continue to be so until he is superseded by velocipedes, I think we can best promote the free circulation of her Majesty's subjects by reducing the duty from 11. ls. to 108. 60., race-horses excepted. I now come to another subject of great interest to this House that of hackney-carriages, or, if I may use the word, cabs. There is no industry which is so much oppressed as that of hackney-carriages; the tax is most monstrous : every cab pays a licence duty of Il., and a shilling for every day—that is to say, a cab working the seven days pays 191. 58. per annum; those working six days pay 161. 13s. Of course, as cabs are so heavily taxed, and are limited in their demands upon the public, they take it out in badness; the vehicles are rickety and the horses are bad. But it is not these poor people who are to blame, but the Legislature. I need say no more to show the justice of altering the duties on cabs. We propose entirely to repeal them. The effect of it will be, that the fourwheeled cab will have to pay the duty of 21. 28. per annum, and, if two horses are employed, there will be a guinea more, making 31. 38. instead of 191. 58. The hansom-cab will only pay 15s., as a sacrifice to the uniformity we have set up, not as an idol to worship, but in order to facilitate the general working of the system. At present the cabs are looked after by the police at an expenditure of 12,0001. a year. Now, we have given up by these reductions 111,0001. a year; therefore, I hope my right honourable friend (thé Home Secretary) will bring in a Bill by which he will get 21. for a cab and 31. for an omnibus, and thus meet the 12,0001. At all events, having washed my hands of the 111,0001., I wash my hands of the payment of 12,0001. a year. Then there is the duty on post-horses. It is 51. on every horse, and rises in a very complicated manner in an ascending scale. This duty, which was very justifiable at first, was imposed at a time when it fell almost exclusively on the rich. But a change has come, and it is no longer paid by the rich, but by the class who employ flies, composed mainly of tourists. This tax is most injurious to a great interest—that is, the railway interest, which has made every one's fortunes but its own. Millions have been spent on railways, and yet you cannot use them because of this duty of 51. I have known a cab three times set up and three times set down by this duty. Many stations remain perfectly inaccessible except for those who have their own carriages. The railways will find this reduction a most essential benefit, and the public
1869.] Mr. Lowe's mode of dealing with Assessed & Locomotion Taxes. [125 will find the use of their railways greatly facilitated. I have now gone through the items of reduction, with the exception of one. That is a small matter of 73,0001., but one to which I attach great importance—the abolition of tea licences. It will facilitate the consumption of tea by the poorer classes, as it will bring it nearer to their homes. There is always a public-house close by, but the grocer's is often at some distance. The effect of all these reductions is this—I am now speaking of those assessed taxes and taxes on locomotion—the amount derived from these sources at present is 1,533,0001. After the reductions the amount will be 1,113,0001.—that is to say, a reduction of 420,0001. Add that to the fire duty, the insurance duty, the corn duty, and the penny reduction from the Income-tax. The whole amount of the revenue dealt with is 14,053,0001., the amount will be, after these remissions, 10,993,0001.; the net remissions will be 3,060,0001.; and the amount of the remissions that will fall upon the present year is 2,940,0001."
Mr. Lowe continued, “I stated that the payment for the Abyssinian War and the surplus of last year have nearly established an equilibrium, there being a surplus of 32,0001. in favour of the revenue. If it be the pleasure of the House to agree to the proposal of the Government with regard to this change in the manner of collecting the taxes, and thus acquire the sum of 3,350,0001., this will be the result :First, I must add to the 3,350,0007, the sum of 32,0001.; then I must deduct from that sum 2,940,0001.—the remission that will take effect during the present year; and when I have made that deduction, the result will be a surplus of 442,0001. One drawback there is undoubtedly in this scheme. We shall have more money than is desirable in one quarter of the year, and less money in the other quarters. That is a considerable mischief; but it seems to be childish to say that we should go to great expense and incur great inconvenience in the collection of the revenue, merely in order that we may preserve the balance of payments in the different quarters
When the revenue is due it should be collected, and we should avoid the vexation of having it collected in these miserable payments. It is a great administrative reform that we propose, and if the House does not choose to accept that reform, we must make other provision to meet our position. We think we cannot leave it as it is; but if the House thinks that the present state of things can be maintained, they have only to intimate it, and we will attend to that intimation. We have done the best we can to make the most of it. Supposing that the House does accept the proposal that we make, just see what will be the result. We shall have paid off in one year 4,600,0001. of unforeseen obligations that no
idea of six months ago. We shall have established the nucleus of a thoroughly sound and proper system for the collection of our taxes that will not only yield much larger funds to the revenue, but will be also infinitely easier and less troublesome to the tax-payer. And we shall, in addition to this, have removed one
of the year.
of the most crying social evils in this country—the enormous obstacles placed in the way of locomotion. We shall not only have reduced a tax, but we shall have set men at liberty, the present evil being, that not only is the tax exorbitant in amount, but that it implies that a man cannot use his property as he thinks proper. I want to go from a railway station to a town, and there is no fly to take me, but there is a man with a gig, and the man dare not take me in that gig for fear of the Excise. That is a waste of the national capital, and of the national resources. It is apparent that from the moment we established our great lines of railway, we ought to bring up our system of locomotion to that standard, and enable it to feed the railways. I look upon that as an enormous benefit and blessing, and one that is not to be measured by the amount of 400,0001., or whatever the remission may be. It will give an
. impetus to the country, of which it is impossible to say enough. “Good wine needs no bush," and, therefore, I need say nothing of the remission of the penny income-tax. It seems to point to a better state of things—though I would not be too sanguinewhen the income-tax was not so much as it is now. I need not dilate on the benefits that must arise from the remission of the fire duty. I need not say a word more to gentlemen anxious to reduce the burdens on the poor about the remission of the corntax. I can only express my hope that I have been fortunate enough to make, on the part of the Government, a proposition to the House that they will think it their duty to accept; for if they cannot make up their minds to accept it, there is no resource but to go without the remissions, and keep on the penny income-tax, and make provision in some other way to strengthen the balances in the Exchequer. I have one word to say about the floating debt. There is a floating debt of 2,300,0002. in Exchequer Bonds that fall due this year. "It would not be wise to ask the House, after paying 4,600,0001. for the Abyssinian War, to go farther in the way of paying debts this year; it would be too heavy at present; but I have 600,0001. in reserve for next year. And I cannot help thinking that the great remission we are making will find its way into the Exchequer in some form, and render it unnecessary to take any direct measure to strengthen our balances and enable us to meet our floating debt when due. There is a floating debt of 5,500,0001. in Exchequer Bills, so that the whole floating debt amounts to about 8,000,0001., the smallest one within the memory of any living
Mr. Lowe concluded a speech of nearly two hours and a half by claiming for his Budget that, besides offering a great administrative reform, it secured, by a sort of parliamentary magic, an unexpected surplus which might be the means of making many useful remissions, and that it would be accompanied with but little inconvenience.
The boldness and ingenuity of this scheme made a lively impression upon the House. Mr. Lowe's statement indeed contained