« AnteriorContinuar »
He had now to call the attention of the committee to the man.ner in which he proposed to meet the above demands. The first article which he should notice was the annual duties on malt, sugar, tobacco, and some other articles which had been taken at the usual amount of 300,000l. The committee were aware that those duties always produced considerably more than the sum of 300,000l. charged upon them, and that the surplus was carried into the consolidated fund.
He next proposed to avail himself of the ways and means for 1815 and 1816 exceeding the amount of the supplies which remained to be paid out of them. The sum for the former year was 15,749. and for the latter 1,849,810l. These sums formed what, in the language of the exchequer, was called surplus of ways and means. He did not, however, mean to take credit for them as a genuine surplus, as in in fact they became disposable only in consequence of parliament having, since they were granted, made a different provision for great part of the supplies charged upon them; whereby they became applicable to the service of the present year, instead of those for which they were originally provided. The whole, after retaining a sufficient sum to pay the supplies charged on them, amounted
2,005,4081., and it was estimated that before the 5th of April 1818 they would produce the further sum of 1,300,000l. for which, therefore, he should take credit as the next item in the ways and means of the present year.
He should in the next place advert to the amount of the consolidated fund remaining at the disposal of parliament on the 5th of April last. In this case also a surplus had been produced by the recent proceedings of parliament. A considerable deficiency had accrued in the produce of the consolidated fund on the 5th of Januáry, but that deficiency having been made good by subsequent votes of the House, and all grants affecting the consolidated fund having been cancelled by act of parliament, its surplus produce on the 5th of April remained disposable for the service of the present year. The sums now remaining in the exchequer of Great Britain and Ireland, and which he should propose to vote on this account, amounted to 1,225,9781. or in round numbers 1,226,000l.
The lottery was taken at 250,000l. and though this might appear a larger sum than that of last year, yet, when the whole account was compared, it would be found that the lottery was reduced 50,000l. instead of being so much higher, as one third of the profit of the lottery had last year been reserved for Ireland, according to the practice which had prevailed ever since the union, whereas this year the whole estimated profit was carried to one account. The whole amount was therefore taken at 300,000l. in 1816, and at only 250,000l. in
first place, endeavour to explain to the committee how the account of the 3,600,000l. Irish treasury bills stood. The House would recollect that before Easter there had been a grant of 4,2000,000l. for repaying certain Irish treasury bills. Upon communication with the bank of England and the bank of Ireland (the whole of the treasury bills being held by them), it was found that the directors of those establishments were disposed to exchange the bills they held for new bills. Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds had however already been paid to the bank of Ireland, and as that body required 5 per cent. interest, it was not thought adviseable to renew the whole sum now outstanding, but to pay off, as occasion offered, such bills as were held by the bank of Ireland. Only a small part of the Irish treasury bills in their hands were however due till December and January next, and it would therefore be time enough to make arrangements for paying them off after the next meeting of parliament. The remaining sum of 9,000,000. he proposed, as he had already stated, to raise by exchequer bills; and he was the more induced to take this proportion of the deficiency in that way, as the bank of England in its negociations would be satisfied with a more moderate rate of interest than was paid in Ireland. Before the meeting of parliament he could have borrowed twelve millions by an advance upon exchequer bills from one set of contractors, and on terms which then appeared favourable; but from the appearance of the money market, he
thought it better not to avail himself of it, and to take the chance of making a more advantageous arrangement, in which he had succeeded even beyond his expectations. He had indeed found the state of the market such, that by issuing exchequer bills gradually in preference to borrowing in one sum upon the same sort of security, he had saved 300,000l. in annual interests. The power of the money market to take off 9,000,000l. of exchequer bills, he thought could not be questioned, when it was considered, that of the 42,000,000l. previously granted by parliament 27,000,000l. had already been put into circulation in the course of the present session. There were, therefore, only bills to the amount of 15,000,000l. further to be issued. The 9,000,000l. he now proposed to add would make 24,000,000l. and, all things considered, he apprehended that there would not be more thrown into the market than could be easily absorbed. It ought at the same time to be recollected, that as the interest had been reduced from 5 per cent. to 34, there was a saving in that respect of 14 per cent. From the measure he proposed, he therefore had reason to expect great advantage both to the agriculture and commerce of the country, and he doubted whether it would have been possible to derive equal benefit from any other arrangement. Although the revenue, from causes over which his Majesty's ministers could have no control, had fallen short six or eight millions, there had been an evident improvement in our public credit. It might be recollected,
that when he addressed the House last year on the financial situation of the country, the three per cent. consols. were only between 62 and 63; at present they were above 74. This was an improvement of twelve per cent. on 62. which, calculated upon 100l. stock, was equal to nearly 20 per cent. The exchequer bills were then at an interest of 54 per cent., and were sold at par. Those now in circulation bore an interest of only 3 per cent.; and on this very day those bills bore 12s. premium. These were circumstances which proved the manifest advantage of the system he had pursued, and now proposed to continue. But it was not in the money market only that the beneficial influence of that system had been felt. A proportional improvement was experienced in every description of property in the country. Large sums had already been sold out of the funds, and applied in aid of the landed interest, in purchases of real property and advances upon mortgages. Similar accommodation had been afforded to the commercial interests of the country by the increasing facility and cheapness of discount. Another most important improvement in the situation of the country had taken place since his last financial statement in the virtual resumption of cash payments by the bank. When he had suggested that the bank might be enabled to pay in specie in the course of two years, his statement was received with ridicule and incredulity. The suggestion which he threw out had, however, been completely realized; for the payments in cash
had been for every practicable purpose resumed. He could not but congratulate the House and the country upon the removal of the doubts and alarms which had been entertained on this subject. None of the evils which had been so profusely foretold, had occurred; and this great change had been accomplished without any shock or danger to public credit. Those who had with regret anticipated these mischievous consequences, he was sure, would now ioin with him in rejoicing at the state in which our country was now placed. The notes of the Bank of England had even during the restriction been preferred to those of every other bank in Europe. What then must be the effect of the removal of that restriction? A third circumstance, to which he could not but call the attention of the committee with peculiar satisfaction, was that, with regard to the public debt, the expectations he held out last year had been more than realized. He had stated an expectation that it would be reduced at least 3,000,000l.: the balance of debt repaid exceeded this sum. The amount paid in 1816 had been stated by the committee on finance at 9,400,000l.; but from this sum it might be fair to make a deduction of 6,000,000l., which formed part of the loans raised for the service of 1815, but which had not been paid into the exchequer till 1816; so that the actual balance discharged was 3,400,000l. This was most satisfactory: but it was not all; for since the 1st of November 1815, at which time the national debt stood at its highest amount, thirty-two
millions of capital stock had actually been purchased up. If, instead of borrowing exchequer bills, he had funded capital stock, it would have been impossible to have operated a reduction of the debt to the same extent. Whether there would be an equal diminution of debt in the present year as in the last, was what he could not pretend to assert. He did not wish to state a positive opinion on the subject; but he estimated that, with some addition to the 12,600,000l. he had already mentioned, he might have to borrow altogther about 14,000,000l., and that it was probable there would be paid off about 16. There might, therefore, be a diminution, not of 3, as in the last year, but probably of 24 millions.
With the improvement of our finances, he looked forward to à speedy improvement in the internal comfort and prosperity of the country. [Hear, hear!] He did not consider this expectation unreasonable. A great part of the public distress arose, not from any derangement in our domestic affairs, but from the general state of Europe. At a time when all over the continent many were struggling for the mere necessaries of life, it was not to be expected that there could be a great demand for our manufactures. This country fortunately had not been reduced to so low a state as some others had, but we could not expect to escape without sharing in the general calamity. If, however, Providence blessed us with a favourable harvest, he should confidently hope to see a
steady restoration of our revenues and our former prosperity. He had taken the liberty of stating this much, merely to impress on the recollection of the committee, that even under the unfavourable circumstances of the last year, all the benefits which he had held out as likely to result from the plans he had proposed had been more than realized. He anticipated a still more sensible improvement; but he sincerely trusted that the country would never find it necessary to resort to any of those desperate and dangerous remedies which some persons had thought it proper to recommend. It was alone upon the firmness of parliament and the loyalty of the people, that the security of public credit and the restoration of national prosperity depended. He had now only to state, that he estimated the amount of the interest of the exchequer and treasury bills necessary to meet the supply at 450,000l. and he contemplated that that sum would be saved by the reduction which had taken place in the interest of unfunded debt since the last session of parliament. Thus the public would be subjected to no new charge whatever. He concluded by moving, "That, towards making good the supply granted to his Majesty, there be issued and applied the sum of 15,749. 15s. 2d. remaining in the receipt of the exchequer of Great Britain of the surplus of the grants for the year 1815."
The several resolutions were agreed to.