Page images

"an unconditional surrender," and he specially blamed the House of Lords for yielding on the question of the Ulster glebes.

Sir Roundell Palmer recognized the wisdom of giving way when the point was reached at which further resistance could only damage those whose interests were involved.

Mr. Kirk expressed himself dissatisfied with the unequal treatment the Presbyterians had received.

Sir F. Heygate hoped that the predictions of peace and harmony might be fulfilled, though he had personally little expectation of the sort from a Bill which he disapproved of as strongly as ever.

Mr. Lefroy spoke in the same sense, and Sir J. Esmonde and Sir P. O'Brien reciprocated this hope on the part of the Roman Catholic members.

Mr. Charley protested strongly against the whole principle of the Bill, and regretted that the Lords had not thrown themselves boldly on the "Conservative democracy" of the country.

Mr. Miall congratulated the Irish Church on having shaken off its political character, and on the part of the Non-conforming body offered her every assistance and sympathy.

Mr. Disraeli took exception to Mr. Vance's complaint that this was "an unconditional surrender." If there had been any difference between the two Houses on principle, it might have been wise to delay a settlement for another year, but when it was entirely one of detail delay would have been a doubtful advantage. He preferred to describe the transaction in which the House was engaged as a wise and conciliatory settlement, rather than as " an unconditional surrender."

After several other members had joined in the general strain of congratulation and approval, the amendments were all adopted without division, and the Bill was for the last time returned to the Lords.

On the 26th of July it received the Royal Assent.

Such was the conclusion of the proceedings which carried to a successful termination the Irish Church Bill of 1869-a measure certainly of very remarkable character, whether we regard its principle, its structure, or the history of its progress through Parliament. The principle of the measure was, and will no doubt continue to be for a long time to come, a matter of the keenest controversy and inveterate difference of opinion. As to the construction of the Bill by which the object was effectuated, it must be admitted to have been devised with extraordinary skill and ingenuity. It was originally presented to Parliament in a carefully elaborated and well-digested form; it was singularly brief in its enactments, and was so drawn as to provide against almost every contingency and to meet every variety of circumstance. It was carried through its various stages, in the face of a united and powerful opposition, mainly by the resolute will and unflinching energy of the Prime Minister, who throughout the long and arduous discussions, in which he took the leading part, displayed in full

measure those qualities of acuteness, force of reasoning and thorough mastery of his subject for which he had long been conspicuous, but which were never more signally exhibited than on this occasion. Upon the whole, whatever may be thought of its merits or demerits, it can hardly be disputed that the Act for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, introduced and carried into a law within somewhat less than five months, was the most remarkable legislative achievement of modern times.


FINANCE-Mr. Lowe, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, presents his first Financial State ment-Novel and ingenious character of his scheme for re-adjusting the Assessed Taxes-Surplus obtained by this arrangement applied to the remission of Fire Insurance and other duties-Favourable reception of the Budget-Objections raised to the proposed prepayment of certain taxes by Mr. Ward Hunt and other Members -Difficulties suggested in regard to the Bank of England and the Money MarketAnswer of Mr. Lowe to such objections-The propositions of the Government are adopted and the Bill passed-Expenses of the Abyssinian Expedition-The original Estimates having been greatly exceeded, further Votes asked for-Complaints of the extravagance of the Military Expenditure-A Select Committee is appointed to investigate the affair-Military and Naval Estimates—The Army Estimates are proposed by Mr. Cardwell, and exhibit a large reduction from the preceding year— The Votes agreed to-Condition and organization of our Military Force-Debate in the House of Lords on this subject, originated by Viscount Monck-Motion by Lord Elcho in the House of Commons in favour of a Standing Army of ReserveThe motion, after debate, withdrawn-The Navy Estimates, which are also largely diminished, are moved by Mr. Childers-Discussions on the organization of the Admiralty, the propositions for Ship-building, and the mode of making ContractsThe Votes proposed are agreed to-Purchase of the Telegraphs by the Govern ment-The Postmaster-General brings in a Bill for raising the sums required by the Act of 1868, and makes a statement as to the operation-The Bill, after some protests from dissentient Members, is agreed to-East Indian Finance-The Duke of Argyll lays before the House of Lords a statement respecting the Finances and Railway system of India, which is followed by a debate-Proposed future execution of Railways by the Indian Government-Financial Statement by Mr. Grant Duff in the House of Commons, and discussion thereon-The CoinageQuestions raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the expediency of imposing a Seignorage-Controversy on this question.

UNUSUAL interest and curiosity were excited by the first financial statement to be made by Mr. Lowe. It was anticipated that his plans would bear the stamp of that originality and boldness which characterize his mind, and that he was not unlikely to strike out a new path to the enlightenment, if not to the relief, of the tax-payer. The occasion indeed did not appear a promising one, for he had inherited from his predecessor the heavy deficiency caused by the Abyssinian Campaign, and the revenue, so long buoyant, had begun to show symptoms of reaction. Mr. Hunt in 1868 had anticipated an income of 73,180,000%., and the result had proved to be only 72,591,9917. It seemed not improbable that some new or increased tax would have to be imposed to meet the liabilities of the year. The removal of any of the existing burdens was supposed to be at present impracticable. Under these circumstances, somewhat dis

couraging to a new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lowe proceeded on the 8th of April to unfold to a Committee of the whole House the state and prospects of the national finances. With no further preface than a prayer for indulgence in the discharge of a long and intricate duty, which he added was wanting in no element of embarrassment or difficulty belonging to a Budget, he entered at once into an elaborate analysis of the accounts of the The actual receipts he stated at 72,592,0007., which was a deficiency of 558,000l. on Mr. Hunt's estimate. The items which had fallen below the estimate were :-Customs, 376,0007.; Stamps, 433,0007.; Assessed Taxes, 46,0007.; Property-tax, 82,0007.; while, on the other hand, the Excise had exceeded the estimate by 132,000l.; Post Office, 10,0007.; Crown Lands, 10,000/.; and Miscellaneous, 252,0007. In a similar comparison of 1868-9 with 1867-8 he showed that while the Excise had risen within the year 300,000., Income-tax, 2,441,000l., Post Office, 30,000l., Crown Lands, 15,000., and Miscellaneous, 779,000l., the Customs had fallen off 226,0007., Stamps, 3237., and Taxes, 15,000Z.; and, going more minutely into details, he brought out the general result that the falling off had been mostly on articles consumed by the poor, such as tea, coffee, sugar, and tobacco, while the consumption of articles used by the rich, such as wine and brandy, had all risen. The actual and estimated outgoings of the past year he compared in the same manner, showing that by reductions of expenditure in various branches a saving of 511,000l. had been effected, which about balanced the falling off in the revenue. In all these calculations he left out of sight the Abyssinian votes as an entirely extraordinary expenditure. Passing next to the finances of the current year, he thus estimated the revenue and expenditure ::

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The estimated revenue was only 263,0007. over the actual receipts. of last year, but the expenditure showed a reduction of 2,261,000, 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 281,0007. 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 4,632,000l., 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. 2,000,0007. in November, 1867; 3,000,0007. in the last year's Estimates; and 3,600,000l. in February last. But of this sum Ways and Means had only been provided for 4,000,000l., as 1,000,000l. of last year's vote had been borrowed by means of Exchequer bonds, leaving 4,600,0007. 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 32,0007. 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 100,000l. 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 600,0007. of the Excise licences, 950,000l. of the land-tax and assessed taxes, and 1,800,0007. of the income-tax-in 3,350,0007., which, added to the 32,000l. surplus of revenue over expenditure, would put the Government in possession of a surplus


of 3,382,000l. "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 900,0007., 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 37. 10s. duty, you pay for armorial bearings 27. 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 17. 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 8000l. 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 37. 108.; if drawn by one horse, and the wheels are small enough to make it a case of cruelty to animals, it pays 17. We propose to reduce the tax to 27. 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 15s., 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 137. 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 127. 10s. on each horse-dealer. I now come to another subject, that of servants, for each of which a tax of 17. 18. is paid, and if under eighteen years old, 10s. 6d. 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

« PreviousContinue »