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come, property, and commercial transactions, because these fall more heavily on Great Britain and less on Ireland. This Mr Childers only cites to dismiss as bearing its own condemnation.
2. The reduction of customs and excise duties in Ireland, so that all commodities consumed there should be free except in the case of whisky and beer, which might still be lightly taxed.
This also Mr Childers condemns, holding—unlike his colleagues the O'Connor Don and others - that the revival of custom-house barriers between the two islands is utterly inadmissible.
3. The payment, by way of "compensation," to Ireland for ,"to -to begin with a period of fifteen years of 24 millions per annum, being the adjusted amount which he considers Ireland is now providing in excess of what she ought to provide under the theory of "taxable capacity." Strange as it may appear as it has appeared to his colleaguesMr Childers emphatically recommends this last alternative. authority must be found to administer this gigantic dole, some objects on which it is to be spent. On the former point no indication is given; but as to the latter, the leading suggestion is that the money should be applied in compensation to the railway companies for reducing very largely -by not less than one-half-the rates for passengers and goods over the Irish railways. Irishmen, rich or poor, are to travel half-price at the cost of Englishmen and Scotchmen, poor or rich! The position, therefore, at which we have arrived under the guidance of the Commission is, that IF the
people of Ireland are now taxed with undue comparative severity, one of the following methods of redress must be adopted :
Either the erection of a separate Parliament and Exchequer in Ireland, unfettered as to financial expedients;
Or the reduction on rates of duty levied in Ireland, with its necessary concomitant & customs barrier between the two islands;
Or the payment out of the Imperial Exchequer of 2 millions or more, to be dispensed by some Irish board for the benefit of Irish railways.
The first has been condemned by the people of the United Kingdom by the return of a Unionist majority of 150 votes.
The second is contrary to the whole policy of the present century. Mr Gladstone in his Home Rule Bill of 1886, while leaving to the Irish Parliament the right to levy other taxes, expressly reserved all power over customs and excise to the Imperial Parliament, so as to avoid the very evil Lord Farrer and others are ready to accept. Again, in the Home Rule Bill of 1893 the same policy was followed because he was "not prepared to face a very inexpedient and very inconvenient system of different sets of trade laws."
The third is supported by Mr Childers alone, and will surely be rejected by public opinion as dangerous and grotesque.
Having now laid side by side the remedies that the members of this Commission have discovered for an alleged wrong, it is time to see on what grounds it is asserted that this wrong has any real existence. Bearing continually in mind that the object of this paper is to place in briefest form before the reader facts and
It must further be noted if the recommendation of the majority of the Commission were accepted, and the revenue collected in Ireland reduced to one-twentieth, or from 7.81 per cent to 5:00 per cent, the result would be for 1893-94
Revenue collected in Ire-
2. The value of Irish property,
localised within Ireland is
4. The balance available as Irish
leaving the taxpayer of Great Britain to bear the whole cost of the Imperial services, to maintain as at present the Irish Constabulary, and to pay over £760,000
for Irish local purposes. If 189596 be taken, the payment to be made would be £933,000. And to what end? Who is to profit by this magnificent arrangement? Not the payer of income-tax, for he already contributes rather less than the desired proportion; not the successor to wealth nor the merchant paying stamp duty on business transactions, for both these classes furnish a revenue already below the estimated "taxable capacity"; but the consumer of excisable articles, of which the whisky - drinker is the most important. The great result of this portentous inquiry is, that the Irish peasant shall drink cheaper and presumably more poteen.
Mr Childers brings out clearly in his report a point which seems to have escaped his colleagues, but is not a little valuable as an addition to the foregoing table of facts. It is said there is an "economic drain," owing to excessive taxation, from the poor country to the rich. Mr Childers shows, on the other hand, that the expenditure by the Imperial Government on civil and military services in Ireland combined is probably rather larger than the revenue raised in Ireland. The drain is not from but into Ireland, which thus retains in local circulation every penny raised in the form of taxation.
Having thus set forth the remedies adopted by the several groups of the majority of the Commission for an alleged injustice to Ireland, remedies antagonistic to one another, to both Mr Gladstone's Home Rule Bills, and to the consistent policy of all parties and all Governments, it is time to state the reasons given in evidence for believing that there is no grievance at all.
The question may be summed
up in a sentence. If taxes are paid by geographical areas, by Ireland, by Scotland, by England, and by Wales, there is or may be a grievance; if by individuals living in Ireland, in Scotland, in England, or in Wales, there is none. The terms of reference to the Commission did indeed speak of the "taxable capacity" of geographical areas of Great Britain and Ireland. Why? Because, as is stated in the 4th clause of the report, "the terms of reference that were drawn up for guidance were probably dictated by the fact that the investigation was contemplated in connection with the Home Rule Bill of 1893," the permanent financial arrangements between the two countries as distinct and separate entities depending on the results of the inquiry. There is in this some justification for those commissioners who argue entirely from the geographical standpoint, but none for their critics, for the Parliament and public of to-day, for whom there is no Home Rule Bill and no tangible Home Rule party.
Sir Thomas Sutherland has perceived that any recommendation based upon figures more or less speculative, as to comparative wealth of sections of the Kingdom, is belated and with nothing more than an academic interest. He says: "Our system of taxation is not one of a tribute-bearing character, imposed on different provinces of the Kingdom in varying aggregate amounts, but the taxes are imposed on the individual units of the population, either according to ascertained income or wealth realised after death, or on commodities, usually regarded as luxuries, which are voluntarily enjoyed by the great bulk of the people."
Up to the period when the Liberal party bolted at Mr Gladstone's bidding from their principles and espoused Home Rule, no responsible statesman of any party had tolerated the suggestion of inquiry as to the taxable capacity of geographical areas within the Kingdom, holding one and all that it is people and not areas that are taxed. Mr Gladstone, when Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1853, distinctly declined to admit " geographical principles" in matters of finance. Sir Stafford Northcote, Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1875, insisted that the taxation of either country could not since the amalgamation of the exchequers be allowed to depend on estimates of aggregate wealth; and Mr Lowe said in the same debate: "They spoke of the taxation paid by England, by Scotland, and by Ireland, whereas of course taxation was not paid by geographical areas but by individuals." Mr Cobden, advocating the extension of the income-tax to Ireland, was equally emphatic: "There must be a perfect equality between the two countries, and every tax paid by this country must be paid by Ireland."
The argument is laboured, in the Report, that the Act of Union, though providing for the union of the exchequers, though only maintaining for a time separate exchequers in consequence of inequality of indebtedness, declared that the imposition of equal taxation should be "subject to such particular exemptions or abatements in Ireland and Scotland as circumstances may appear from time to time to demand." As already shown, Ireland still enjoys exemption from her share of taxation, amounting to over 4 millions in Great Britain; but this being direct taxation, can be varied or omitted without interfering with
the unity of the Exchequer. The variation now desired in rate of customs and excise entails the reestablishment of the customs barrier which the Act of Union was planned to abolish.
With regard to direct taxation, if a man enjoys an income of £1000 per annum, or succeeds to a fortune of £10,000 in a less wealthy district, can it be urged that his capacity to pay taxes is less than it would be in a wealthier and more prosperous district? No; because if there is any difference at all, the man in the poorer district has more capacity rather than less, since his house-rent, wages bill, and certain other expenses, will be distinctly lower.
Turning to indirect taxation, the revenue derived from people in Ireland is 22s. per head, and from people in Great Britain 24s. Conceding at once that there are more per thousand in comfortable circumstances in Great Britain than in Ireland, conceding that in a greater proportion of cases the payment of 24s. per head in the former leaves a more liberal margin than of 22s. in the latter, can it be allowed that justice requires a gift to all consumers, rich and poor, in Ireland, of half or some other great proportion of duties on commodities?
from British taxpayers in order that all classes in Ireland, the few rich as well as the many poor, should get their tea, tobacco, and spirits at a lower price. The poverty of thousands upon thousands in our great towns-London, Edinburgh, Glasgow-and in the remote districts of the Highlands is such that they have no visible margin for taxation, and if presents of cheapened commodities are going, they have, at least, as good a title to receive them.
A word should be said as to the historical argument. Is anything due to the Irish people now to make up for unfair usage in the past? On this point the report by Lord Farrer is admirably clear and conclusive. The Act of Union in 1800 did not immediately unite the two exchequers, but fixed the contribution of Ireland towards general expenditure at two-seventeenths of the whole. The Irish debt at that period was less than two-seventeenths, hence it would have been unfair to Ireland to amalgamate the exchequers and spread the burden of both debts over both peoples. During the next seventeen years expenditure increased so heavily that the Irish Exchequer was unable to meet its obligations out of taxation, and incurred a debt of 84 millions. The debt of Great Britain had in the same period been increased by 291 millions. On a comparison of the two debts of the two exchequers at the close of the great war, it was found that the Irish debt bore to the British debt a larger proportion than two-seventeenths. Hence it became possible, both in terms of the Act of Union and with full justice to the smaller country, to complete the union of the exchequers and unite the debts. From this it will be seen Ireland was required by the Union to pro
vide a larger proportion of annual expenditure than was found to be possible, but in fact she never did provide it, because she was relieved in 1817 of the debt incurred in the effort.
After the amalgamation of the exchequers in 1817 large differences in the scale of taxation in the two countries remained. Tea duties were at once levied at the same rates; in 1819 tobacco was put in the same position; stamp duties were assimilated in 1842; duties on spirits were for a long period less than one half the British scale, but in 1858 the charge in both countries was fixed at 8s. per gallon, and has moved in harmony since that date, standing now at 10s. 6d.; income tax was extended to Ireland in 1853. There still remain taxes yielding in Great Britain £4,188,000 which have never been extended to Ireland. Since these are levied on the richer classes, and the proportion of wealth may be taken at one-twentieth, the annual charge payers of direct taxes in Ireland are still excused should amount to over £200,000. The estimate of probable yield is, however, stated by Sir Alfred Milner at only £150,000. There is now complete equality of taxation-save for the remissions still existing in favour of Irishmen throughout the Kingdom.
Sir Robert Giffen maintains that equal rates of taxation can be levied throughout an empire and yet unequal burdens be placed on the shoulders of particular groups of persons within that empire, and the whole legitimate grievance of taxpayers within these three kingdoms depends upon the value of his reasoning. The most striking illustration is derived from an imaginary union of England and France under one exchequer.