Debates ant: 'proud:dugs in Varliament.
In the House of Commons, on Monday, Mr. HUME moved as an amend- ment on the order of the day for going into Committee on the Income-tax Bill, " That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee."
He admitted that the course was unusual to refer a bill on taxation to a Se-
lect Commitee; but the tax proposed was itself unusual. A capital fault in the measure is that the persons who carry it out are not officers of the Crown. They are, indeed, mostly political agents, appointed by the generally Conservative Members for the Counties. Imagine one set of merchants asking others of their trade, perhaps direct rivals, what were the profits made, who were the partners, and what were their shares; and how much of the capital of a firm was borrowed money I Yet this is to a great extent the state of things established by the bilL The only objection urged against any attempt at improvement is the discreditable one that the trouble is great. Mr. Hume stated the early history of taxes on income. Under the act of 1692 for levying the land-tax, 48. in the pound was levied on every 1001. of rental. With respect to personalty, 4s. in the pound was levied on the interest (rated at 61. per cent) of every 1001. embarked in trade. There is no instance of a tax on the yearly product of industry till Mr. Pitt's Income-tax Bill of 1796; for the attempt was repelled when made in 1701. Mr. Hume referred to the machinery of the Legacy-duty Office as available in the attempt to capitalize incomes. In that office every annuity bequeathed is cal- culated, and the amount of the duty equitably impwed according to the successive interests in it. The principle which is there already carried out with regard to a State revenue of 2,500,0001., could as easily be extended to a further revenue of 5,000,0001. If a Committee failed in effecting modifications, he would vote for the tax for another year in its present shape. Mr. ROBINSON seconded the amendment. It was supported by Mr. SHARMAN CRAWFORD, Mr. URQ1711AR.T, Mr. MITCIIELL, and Mr. ANSTEY. Mr. TRELAWNET, Mr. J. B. CARTER, Mr. NEWDEGATE, Mr. HORSMAN, (in deference to the last decision of the House on the matter,) Sir ROBERT INGLIS, (who repeated his own suggestion of the 1501. limit, and a new tax on gas,) Mr. CARDWELL, and Mr. Gouanunw, resisted the amendment; and Sir CHARLES WOOD replied to suggestions.
Sir Robert Inglis's gas-tax would press heavily upon the poorer class of shop- keepers, and would not yield the revenue which some have anticipated. Sir Charles quoted some of the amusing proposals of taxation which enthusiasts have called to his attention,—a tax on hats, one on bells, another on opera-glasses; a fourth, as a retaliation on French legislation, on French servants, with a quad- ruple rate on French cooks. (Laughter.) Sir Charles defended the principle of the present Income-tax; which now bears the shape it assumed under Mr. Pitt, and retained under Mr. Addington, Lord Lansdowne, and Mr. Perceval. He had referred to the words of the Legislature of South Carolina in their imposition of an Income-tax, and found that they levied the rate "on all profit and income arising from the pursuit of any trade, occupa- tion, or employment." He knew of no country where a tax on income was levied which did not impose it equally on all incomes, whatever their source. Sir Charles examined the allegation that it was so easy to capitalize income. "It has been stated, that it is the easiest thing in the world to capitalize income;
that the actuary of any insurance-office will do it for you at once, and tell you at what rate the tax should be laid upon it. But just let us consider what sort of procedure we are talking about. A person goes to an insurance-office, and the company send for their physician and surgeon and investigate the state of his health; and, when you have ascertained a man's income and the probable duration of his Me, you may capitalize his income, assume a given rate of interest—say 4 per cent, and upon that tax him. In theory that is exceedingly simple: but I am not very sure that if gentlemen who pay the Income-tax are to undergo in addition to the inquisition into their circumstances, an investigation of the slate of their health, and appear before medical officers to be surveyed,' as we as in the Navy, the proposition would be so excessively popular. (Laughter.) ilk inquisition mast take place every year, because a man's health and income may vary from year to year. Every year of a taxpayer's life, therefore, he must tindery° a double inquisition, first with respect to his health, and then with respect to his circumstances. It would be necessary, also, to extend the inquisition to persons having only a life interest in landed property; for the value of such interest must vary according to the state of health of the parties possessing is, Turning to the common assertion that incomes from land should bear heavier rates than other incomes, he reminded the House of the exclusive burdens borne by that species of property. He had received a letter from a Suffolk clergyman containing apposite remarks, which he quoted—" The reverend gentleman refers to property in his neighbourhood producing a rental of 4501. a year, which pays 1041. annually in taxation; and he contrasts the case of the possessor of that property with that of several persons deriving their incomes from trades or pro- fessions, who, he contends, do not pay a proportionate amount of taxation. My correspondent calls upon me to exempt the persons in schedule A from an amount of Income-tax proportionate to the local burdens imposed upon them: Mentioning that the whole weight of local taxation, amounting to no less than 8,500,0001. a year, falls exclusively on schedule A, he continued—" Let us take the case of two gentlemen, one in schedule A and the other in schedule D, each paying Income-tax to the amount of 301.; which implies the possession of an MOM of 1,0001. The gentleman in schedule A derives his income from land, and the tax is taken from his tenants by the collector in the first instance. No deduction is made on account of the expenditure made on the estate, an expen.. &tare which is absolutely necessary to keep up the income. It is immaterial whether the landlord gets his rent or not; the Income-tax must be paid. There are many gentlemen in this House who are able to state what percentage should be put upon an estate for repairs; which is, of course, to be deducted from the nominal amount of rent. The lowest amount at which I ever heard this per- centage fixed was 10 per cent; other estimates carry it as high as 30 per cent. The result of my own experience, corroborated by the information which I have received, leads me to believe that I shall not overstate the amount of the deductions to be made from rent, under the head of repairs, at 20 per cent on the whole. If that be correct, it is evident that a man who pays 301. income-tax for a nominal rental of 1,0001. puts in his pocket only 7701. The man who pays under schedule D, however, deducts for repairs, for charges of management, and for losses in trade; and, before the tax is assessed upon him, he has a clear net income, after all deductions, of 1,0001. I think that the 2001. a year which the taxpayer in schedule D enjoys beyond him who pays in schedule A is a suffi- ciently liberal allowance for the purpose of providing for children by insurance of life."
Sir Charles alluded to some surprising results first made known by the returns obtained by Mr. Moffat. "I never was more astonished in my life than when I looked into that return. It appears from that document, that in the whole of Great Britain there are only 111,000 persons who pay income-tax under schedule D for incomes above 1501. It must be recollected that schedule D includes not only all professional men, and all persons engaged in trade, but all persons deriv- ing incomes from property in Ireland, in the Colonies, and in foreign countries. But, assuming that the schedule inc,luded only professional men and
x engaged in trade, does any man believe that there are only 111,000 dtrle= classes in Great Britain ? I have been told by a gentleman, that he knew one establishment in which seventy clerks were employed, each of whom received an income above 1501. a year. If the return be analyzed, the results are still more extraordinary. It would appear that there were only 9,800 persons in Great Bri- tian who derive incomes exceeding 1,0001. a year from professions and trades. Could any one believe that? Why, it is notorious that, with the exception of a very few landed proprietors, the great amount of wealth in this country is to be found amongst the manufacturing and commercial classes. Those who can believe that there are only 9,000 persons following professions and trades who possess in- comes exceeding 1,0001. must have a larger share of credulity than falls to my lot. We are told that the tax presses severely upon the great body of moanai, tradesmen: but that is equally incredible, for I find by this return, that whereas the whole amount derived under schedule D is 1,600,0001., the sum of 775,0001. is paid by persons having incomes above 1,0001. The inquisitorial character of the tax is urged as one of the chief objections to it; bat, if the alterations suggest- ed by the honourable Member for Montrose were to be adopted, it would be ne- cessary to render it much more inquisitorial as regards schedule D, for no one can believe that a fair return of income is made under that head. The inquisition which would be necessary under schedule D would be so rigid, that I believe the country would not bear it. My belief is, that the parties who pay under schedule D object more to the inquisitorial character of the tax than to its amount; and therefore, if by any alteration you may effect you render it more inquisitorial, you increase the evil complained of. I hope then, by what I have stated, I have suc- ceeded in convincing the honourable Member for Montrose, that whether we be right or wrong in upholding the existing apportionment of the tax, we have not come to that determination without due consideration."
The authority of Adam Smith is often quoted, but never with exactness. It is customary for the opponents of the present bill to quote one of Smith's axioms thus far—" The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the Government as nearly as possible in proportion to their respective abilities": but the quotation is never completed, thus—" that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state." Sir Charles opposed any modification, on the ground that it must necessarily be based on such additional inquisitorial elements as would render it impossible to maintain the tax. On a division, the amendment was negatived, by 284 to 73.
A division was then taken, on the question " that the Speaker do leave the chair ": which was carried affirmatively, by 323 to 12, and the House went into Committee.
On the first clause, Major BERESFOB.D moved as an amendment the in- sertion of the words "two years," for the duration of the tax. The mo- tion was negatived without division; and the words " three years " were afterwards inserted.
The other clauses of the bill then passed; and the House resumed.
On Tuesday, Mr. BANRES moved a resolution, to the effect that the powers of the Railway Commission should be regulated so that its charge to the public might be much diminished. The act 9th and 10th Victoria had established the Commission, and given it much patronage, but had not provided any duties to be performed. These were to be defined by a subsequent act, which has never passed. The experiment had been tried on an unreasonably large scale, and had entirely failed. The present opportunity offered by the resignation of Mr. Strutt, on losing his seat for Derby, is most convenient for a new-modelling of the establishment. Mr. Bankes stated the expenses of the department. When railway matters were first referred to the Board of Trade, the expense was 1,7921. Subsequent ar- swements raised the expense to 3,3021. But under the new Board, the first rears expenses were no less than 17,0001.; and though in the present year's -;,--isnates the cost is put down at 12,0001., Mr. Bankes bad reason to believe the real burden on the country would again be upwards of 17,0001. He found that o board had been erected in the Admiralty for dealing with Admiralty Railway matters, which cost the country some 3,630i. a year; and he had reason to believe that when, as a member of the Committee now setting on the Army, Navy, and Ord- nance Estimates, he came to inquire into the Ordnance items, as he had examined those of the Navy, similar charges for Railway machinery would be found there too. These additions, not put down under the head of charges on account of the gailway Board, would cause the charges which are really for Railway matters to mood greatly the sum of 17,0001. for the present year. Mr. Bankes urged the resumption by the Board of Trade of the duties which were subtracted from their department and given to the Railway Commission. Re intended, if his resolution were adopted, simply to move the repeal of the 9th and 10th Victoria. He believed Government were "shaky" on the point, and would willingly fall in with any arrangement by which they should accede to the principle of his motion. Mr. Bankes paid a high personal tribute to the honourable and efficient trans- action of the official duties by Mr. Stunt. Sir CHARLES WOOD thought there would not be found any items of the sort that Mr. Bankes anticipated in the Ordnance Estimates: as to those in the Navy, the express wishes of the House had simply been obeyed in the erection of the machinery which gave rise to them; and the new Com- mission had been formed on the recommendation of three reports by Com- mittees of the House.
In 1846, Mr. Bickham Escott was unable to find any support in the House when he divided against the bill. In financial matters the Board had been of most essential service to the Committees on Railway Bills. Last year, its business had been exactly twice that of the Railway department of the Board of Trade; and this year, the business done up to this time is one-third of all that was done last year. So that the labours of the Board are increasing rather than otherwise. With regard to the chief office of the Commission, as soon as Mr. Strutt learnt the decision of the Committee on his election, be resigned: Government accepted the resignation, and have determined not for the present to fill up the vacancy. Some member of the Board of Trade will be appointed, without pay, to direct thepro- re
ings of the Railway Board. The House had far better wait the reports of the Committees now sitting upon the Estimates, before taking any direct step such as is now suggested.
Mr. Grans-Foals drew the attention of the House to what he thought the real question; which was not about an extension of control, but about the organ that should perform present duties.
Parliament, he thought, committed a great error in erecting a body to exercise a control before it had determined what that control should be. Four gentlemen— the President and Vice-President of the Board of Trade, the Master of the Mint, and the First Commissioner of the Railway Board—now assiduously labour to perform duties that were all done without inconvenience by one person, Sir George Clerk, in 1846. The criterion of the number of papers by which Sir Charles Wood estimated the business was most fallacious. There were comparatively few papers in hand when Lord Dalhousie was breaking down in health under the la- bours the Railway department of his office.
Mr. Hume said, that the real cost incurred was the difference between that of the old and the new machinery; which did not exceed 3,0001. This sum he thought a wise expenditure, for the increased efficiency and respon aibility secured.
Mr. F. T. MUIING opposed a rejoining of the new with the old depart- ment of the Board of Trade: the want really exposed by these discussions is that of a great department of public works—independent and responsible.
Called forth by Sir JAMES Graemam, Mr. LABOUCHERE threw additional light on the intentions of Government.
It was intended, as he had been informed by Mr. Strad, to lay on the table of the House, immediately before or after Easter, a full and detailed report, giving an account of what the duties of the Railway Commission bad been,—which he thought would be found more arduous and considerable than had been described; and also what was suggested as the future course of legislation with respect to the management of railways. The House would likewise, at a future period, be in possession of the report of the Committee on the Miscellaneous Estimates; and this information, taken together, would enable the House to consider the whole subject with greater advantage than at present. It was admitted that enough doubt existed on the subject to render it improper to fill up the vacancy now ex- isting at the Railway Board; and he knew that it was Lord John Russell's in- tention to insert in the new commission to be issued the name either of the Presi- dent or of the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. Consequently, the business of the Railway department would be carried on in conjunction with the Board of Trade.
Mr. Labouchere would not oppose the motion, but moved " the previous question."
On a division, " the previous question " was carried, by 75 to 56.
RIGHT OR PETITION.
On Tuesday, Mr. WAKLEY presented a petition from a clergyman named Beale, which petitioned amongst other things for the abolition of the House of Lords. Sir ROBERT INGLIS moved that the petition be not brought up as it contained an objectionable passage. An irregular discussion arose as to the licence of expression in petitions to the Houses of Parliament. The SPEAKER being appealed to, said that the House must first decide whether the petition came within the rules of the House, and then whether the petition might be brought up. Mr. WAKLEY read the passage that had been challenged-
" The petitioner also prays for the abolition of the House of Lords; considering that one assembly of representatives, duly elected, is quite sufficient for all na- tional purposes.
Mr. HUME protested against any doctrine that a petition was not pre- sentable if it conflicted with the unanimous feeling of the House. It was their duty to receive all petitions, whatever they asked—even if they asked for a Republic in place of the Monarchy. Sir JAMES GRAHAM thought the House should allow the petition to be brought up and read, before pronouncing deliberately whether or not it should lie on the table. But he could not agree that it would be con- sistent with loyalty to the Sovereign to allow petitions to be laid on the table against Kingly government and for the substitution of a Republic. Mr. BRIGHT asked, how, then, might one petition for the exclusion of Bishops from sitting as Spiritual Peers? Was it worth while to draw any line, or do more than require a respectful manner of framing petitions?
Mr. M. J. O'Coartam. observed, that there is no law against stating any- where that the Lords should be abolished; but there is against the expres- sion of opinions subversive of the Monarchy.
Mr. LABOUCHERE would vote for laying the petition on the table; but was not the less determined to uphold the present constitution of the State. Mr. WAKLEY said, he did not concur in the prayer of the petition he presented: be thought more liberty might be enjoyed under our present form of government than any other he knew. Mr. Aosiowur, Mr. Rotos- DELL PALMER, and Dr. BowIuKo, also supported the receipt of the petition.
Sir ROBERT INGLIS was gratified at having educed even from Members who supported the petition so much loyal sentiment. Feeling that his view was enforced though he might technically fail, he withdrew his motion; and the petition was ordered to lie on the table.
In the House of Lords, on Thursday, Lord ELLENBOROUGH called at- tention to the increase of expense in certain public departments. There has been an increase of 110,0001. for salaries and payments to officials daring the last year. The increase in the number of persons employed is 1,250; of whom 1,109 are due to the Post-office alone. The 14.1 in the other depart- ments, however, add expenses of no less than 70,0001.-500/. per head. In one office, a decrease of six officers had led to a proportionate increase of 6,0001. in expenses-' which was very singular. In the Colonial Office, the increase was 4,3231. for retired allowances only—one-third of the whole amount of charge under that head. In the Admiralty, he had suggested a little more work and fewer additional bands; and it had been regarded as quite a novel suggestion. The fact is, gentlemen in public offices are above clerk's work. The Admi- ralty increase is 10,0001. Then the Customs increase is 49,0001.; and this not- withstanding the lightening of the labours of the department by the abolition in late years of numbers of duties. The only consolatory items are a decrease of 6,6961. in the Excise, and 2,0181. in the Stamps and Taxes departments. Lord Ellenborough moved for a specific return of the increased salaries and emolu- ments of all public officers in the past year; threatening to make more searching
The Marquis of LANSDOWNE had no objection to the return, if it could be made in an unobjectionable form. Earl GREY, the Earl of AUCKLAND, and the Marquis of CLANRICARDE, showed some difficulties in preparing the returns, and gave some information on their departments.
In the Admiralty, immense arrears in the books have been made good, with great labour. In the Post-office, increase of work requires increase of outlay, and is attended by increase of revenue. The increased number of appointments in 1846 was 1,241; in 1847, 1,109. The increase of letters over 1839 in 1840 was 169,000,000; that of 1841 over 1840 was 196,000,000. In 1844 rural post-offices were greatly extended, and a rise of 28 per cent took place immediately; and last year the increase was 30 per cent above the year before. In the present year, 400 new receiving-houses had been opened, and 417 new messengers appointed; In fact, 870 of the 1,109 new appointments had been rural appointments, and 1,300 villages have deliveries extended to them for the first time. Thus it is visible, that a more than commensurate return has been made by the Post-office i for its increased expense.
Lord STANLEY remarked the importance of the patronage of a multitude of small offices at an average salary of 301. a year; and the opportunities thus made of rewarding political friends and disappointing opponents. He, however, recommended the motion to be brought forward at a future time, after a fuller notice. This course was adopted by Lord ELLENBOROUGH.
MR. HAwES AND THE OATHS. On Wednesday, Mr. GOULBURN moved for a Select Committee te.. inquire whether the oaths required to be taken on the re- turn of Members had been properly taken by Mr. Hawes. The case was this. The election for Kinsale took place on the 11th of March; the return was not certified to the House by the Clerk of the Crown till the 18th of March; but Mr. Hawes appeared in the House and took the oaths and his seat on the 15th. Mr. Hawes, aware of the informality, abstained from participating in the business of the House from the 15th to the 18th, and so avoided the penalties. But a principle had been violated. Mr. HAWES declared that he considered his conduct quite correct: but he had no objection to the appointment of a Committee to inquire.
ELEcTiosi RECOGNIZANCES Buss On Wednesday, iu Committee, Mr. STUART WORTLEY succeeded, by decided majorities, in getting struck out all the original clauses of the bill, and in introducing others. The first clause refers the question of the recognizances to a Select Committee. The second provides that when an error occurred in the recognizances from the fault of the officers of the House, the petitioners shall be at liberty to amend them. A third clause and a preamble were agreed to. The krronsar-Gesienat threatened resistance on the question that the report be further considered.
THE RYE Etacrioar COMMITTEE reported, on Monday, that Mr. Herbert Mascall Curteis had not been duly elected for that borough, and that the last election was void: also, that certain specific allegations in the petition against Mr. Curteis and his agents of bribery and treating were unfounded, and were frivolous and vexatious; and that the costs relating to them should be paid to Mr. Carteia by the petitioners.
THE Stsoo COMMITTEE reported, that Mr. John Patrick Somers was not duly elected for that borough, and that the last election was void.
NEW Warm were issued, on Thursday, for Wicklow, in the room of Colonel Acton, who has accepted the Chiltern Hundreds; and for Rye, the last election having been declared void.
FRAMEWORK-KNITTERS. On Wednesday, Sir HENRY HALFORD moved for a Select Committee to consider the evidence and report laid before Parliament in 1844 on the distress of the framework-knitters; to make farther inquiries if ne- cessary, and to ascertain what legislative measures can be devised in redress. Sir Henry renewed arguments which he had advanced in previous sessions, to justify legislative interference. The motion was opposed by Mr. LABOUCHERE; who cited the expressed opinion of Mr. Muggeridge, the Commissioner of inquiry, that the evils are of a permanent character, or of a sort not remediable by legislative interference. The labour of the framework-knitters, from its unskilled and inex- pensive nature, is sabjedt to influences from every change in the distribution of labour in other branches of industry. On a division, the motion was negatived, by 85 to 51.
THE EJECTMENTS IN GALWAY. Sir GEORGE GREY made some farther explanation on Tuesday, respecting Mr. Blake's case. The Lord-Lieutenant for- warded a letter some time ago to the Home Office on the subject of the ejectmenta in Galway, and was surprised that Government had not attended to the sub ject till the recent notice of it in Parliament. This letter cannot be found, and it is supposed to have been lost. After inquiry, and receiving Mr. Blake's own com- ments on the case against him, Lord Clarendon, of his own accord, had removed that gentleman's name from the list of the Magistracy. Mr. St. George, a Mem- ber of the House, who was implicated in the affair has also been written to by Lord Clarendon; and the House should know the resale:it the earliest possible moment.
SCHOOLMASTERS IN SOOTLAND. On Wednesday, Mr. Cocuntsta obtained leave to bring in a bill to facilitate the removal of incompetent schoolmasters in Scotland. The LORD ADvocare allowed the introduction of the bill, but could not promise his support at subsequent stages. The second reading was fixed for the 17th of ApriL