Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

bited too flourishing a view of our condition, had brought into his view certain particulars which could not enter into a fair comparison. He had taken the whole charge of the consolidated fund and the sinking fund, and had then shown that our expenditure had considerably exceeded our receipts. It was impossible that this should not be the case, as so considerable a part of the war taxes had been abolished. Parliament had thought fit to relieve the country from fifteen millions of taxes, and thus they necessarily and unavoidably prevented the effect which would have been produced in the redemption of the debt by these fifteen millions annually. With respect to his plan of operations for the present

year, he could only answer the right hon. gentleman, as he had answered an hon, member some nights ago—he would not prematurely tie up his own .. but would reserve to himself the power of adopting those measures which the situation of public affairs rendered most expedient. Several other gentlemen spoke on this subject, some of whom appeared by no means inclined to adopt all the flattering predictions contained in the ministerial speeches. The motion was at length agreed to ; and the same committee was re-appointed, with the exception of two, who were no longer in parliament, and whose names were supplied by two other members. The whole number amounted to 21.

- cHAPTER

CHAPTER IV.

The House of Commons in a Committee on the Exchequer Consolida

tion Acts.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer moves for a Committee on the Consolidated Fund Produce Bill.

The House of Lords reads

for the third time the Bill for rendering the Produce of the Consoli

dated Fund available for the Public Service, which passes. of Harrowby's Report from the Select Committee.

House of Commons.

N March 8, the House of Commons having resolved itself into a committee on the Exchequer Consolidation Acts, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that he did not anticipate any objections to the arrangement he was about to propose. By the practice of the exchequer, the revenue received for the purposes of the consolidated fund accumulated till the end of the quarter, and those sums had not been made applicable to the public service, but the Bank had had the advantage of the interest on them. The accumulations of the sums thus received for the consolidated fund, which were not applicable at present, unless to the payment of the interest of the public debt, the sinking fund, and the civil list, he proposed to apply to the public service, till required for i. original purose. The simple proposal, therefore, which he had to submit to the House was, that the public should have the benefit, instead of the Bank, of those accumulations. The sum to be thus applied, however, he should propose to be limited to a definite amount,

The Earl The same in the

namely, six millions, which was nearly as large a sum as was usually accumulated from one quarter’s end to the other. He should further propose, that at the time these sums were taken from the exchequer, exchequer bills should be replaced as a security, which bills should be realised at the close of the quarter. It would be recollected by the committee, that a negotiation between the Bank and Mr. Perceval took place in 1808, at which time that minister entertained a similar idea. But this plan was subsequently given up, and Mr. Perceval thought that the more convenient mode would be, to accept from the Bank the sum of three millions without interest, in lieu of the advantages the public would have otherwise derived from the appropriation of these sums to the public service. At the time when Mr. Perceval made his arrangement, the balances in the hands of the Bank were far more considerable than at present. Since that time the amount had greatly decreased in consequence of the peace; and a very large sum had been taken from these balances by the new arrangement with regard to the payment of the sinking fund under the consolidation acts. The remaining balances had been reduced as low as could be allowed with safety; and from the accounts upon #. table, it would be seen that there were seldom in the hands of the Bank, balances for more than ten days of what the public service required. He had now the satisfaction of stating to the committee, that the Bank had expressed its willingness to assist in carrying this plan into execution. In the measure he should propose, he should also introduce a clause limiting, for a certain time, the application of the sum of six millions, so taken out of the exchequer, to the public service, and o"; it to the liquidation of debts due to the Bank from government. It would be recollected, that there was an arrear of the consolidated fund amounting to upwards of three millions outstanding from last January 5th, to the liquidation of which debt a portion of the sum of 6,000,000l. would be applied. With a view of satisfying all parties, he should introduce a do for limiting the continuance of the measure to the 5th of July, 1820. He concluded with moving, “ That it is the opinion of this Committee, that it is expedient the growing produce of the Consolidated Fund in Great Britain be made applicable in each quarter, to an amount not exceeding six millions on the whole at any time, for such services as shall be voted by parliament, until the same be

these

required for the services for which it is appropriated.” After several members had spoken on each side, the resolution was agreed to. On March 18th, the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved the order of the day, for the House to resolve itself into a committee on the consolidated fund produce bill. On the motion, “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair,” Mr. Grenfell said, that the proposed measure was by no means what the House had a right to expect from the repeated statements and declarations of the chancellor of the exchequer, since the commencement of the session, and particularly those of February 1st. He would venture to appeal to every member in the House, whether what had sallen from the right hon. gentleman did not amount to this—that as public monev had accumulated in the hands of the Bank of England to the amount of seven millions, he had a measure in contemplation which would have the effect of abstracting six millions, and rendering it available to the public service. Something had fallen from him leading to a supposition that he meant to limit his bill to the exchequer balances, which had immediately induced him (Mr. Grenfell) to state that there were other balances, amounting upon an average to three millions, and that he should not be satisfied unless they were also appropriated to the service of the nation. Did not the right hom. gentleman then assert unequivocally, that his plan would not be confined confined to the exchequer deposit, but would embrace all the public money in the hands of the Bank; or, to put it more shortly, deprive that body of six out of seven millions, leaving one million as an adequate remuneration for its trouble. Now, the utmost that could be obtained from the bill was, that the public would receive what was equivalent to the interest upon three millions instead of six. It was well known that there were no less than 56 balances of various kinds in the hands of the Bank, and the measure now proposed, only touched one of them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that the very title of this bill was the best answer to the hon. gentleman's observations. That title was for the application to the public service, of a part of the growing produce of the consolidated fund. It professed solely to refer to the exchequer bills account, which was certainly only one, though a very important one, of the 56 accounts of balances. The hon. gentleman was well aware that since the peace, the public balances in the hands of the Bank had been reduced to six or seven millions; he must also know, that with respect to several of these balances he had no control, as their appropriation was specifically enjoined by a distinct act of parliament. There was, it is true, another branch of public balances in the hands of the Bank, namely, the revenue balances, which were no longer suffered to remain in the hands of private bankers, and these were paid weekly, and

sometimes oftener, to the exchequer. If, in the course of business, still further sums could be rendered available for the public, he was ready to admit that such savings ought to receive immediate attention. He had no hesitation in saying, that the interest of six millions would be available to the public, three millions on the day after this act passed. The bill did not protect the Bank against any further reduction of their balances, if it should appear advisable to make such reduction. Mr. Tierney said, that these Bank balances consisted of two descriptions; one from the growing produce of the consolidated fund; the other arising from the general receipts of the departments of the government. How came it, then, that the proposed measure was reduced to so limited a scale? As to these six millions being made available, he believed that such a hope had no existence but in the imagination of the chancellor of the exchequer. He, however, first took credit for three millions, going to meet certain arrears and deficiencies arising on former quarters out of the consolidated fund. Now, for such a purpose, he had no necessity for the present bill, as there alread existed an act of parliament whic provided for such deficiency by the issue of exchequer bills, which bills were to be met by the current revenue of the succeeding quarter. Then came the other branch, namely, the re-payment of three millions due to the Bank. What means had the House of knowing, that a sum existed i. c be thus applied ? Would the chancellor of the exchequer say, that there existed the means of making to the Bank an actual and positive payment of three millions? Surely, he must feel that it would be unbecoming in him to say so, merely because such a balance existed on one yo day in the quarter. ..et him remind the right hon. gentleman, that early in the present session, he himself thought that the consideration of the Bank balances should be referred to the committee now sitting on the Bank question. The right hon. gentleman concluded with moving as an amendment, the postponement of the committal of the bill until Monday se’nnight. The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied, that his bill went to regulate the whole question respecting the Bank balances, and he could not consent to postpone it for the object alluded to. The House divided on the chancellor of the exchequer’s motion: Ayes, 154; Noes, 80. The House then resolved itself into the committee. Mr. Tierney having pressed the chancellor of the exchequer to state, in what manner he expected to have between two and three millions available to go in reduction of the Bank loan, and that gentleman having replied, that he expected the amount would turn out as he had already stated it, Mr. T. declared that he did not believe a single word of it. Some other questions and answers were made by different members, after which the House was resumed, and the report was

ordered to be received on the following day.

On March 29th the House of Lords entered upon the third reading of the bill for rendering the growing produce of the consolidated fund available for the public service.

The Marquis of Lansdowne said, that the bill should have his warmest support, since nothing could be more just than its provisions, so far as they went. He must, however, call their lordship's attention to the principle on which it was founded, and the very limited extent to which that principle was carried. Alluding, then, to the spirited efforts made by a member of the other House (Mr. Grenfell) to obtain for the public a share in the balances left in the possession of the Bank, the marquis observed, that the bill confined the application of its principle to one description of balances, namely, that on the growing produce of the consolidated fund, and asked, why was

not this principle carried to a

greater extent? Why was it not applied to the balances of the customs and excise, of which at least three millions might be made available each quarter in the same manner P It had been boasted that the arrangement contemplated by this bill would produce a saving of interest on balances to the amount of six millions, whereas the fact was, that the average of these balances did not exceed four millions. Besides, the advantage could only be enjoyed by the public for a small part of the year; for it was provided, that the bills made out

under

« ZurückWeiter »