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necessaries of life, and the transfer of the taxation, so far as possible, to articles of luxury or not of necessity. Between 1860 and 1900 the Customs duties, reduced on articles of consumption (in excess of duties imposed), amounted to 19,250,0001., and in the Excise department the similar reductions amounted to 3,200,0001. In the same period the whole duty on sugar disappeared, and the duty on tea fell from 2s. 2d. to 6d. per lb. Of these great reductions Ireland got her share, and although the share may not have been altogether commensurate with the taxation imposed on Ireland, still, the reduction must not be forgotten in passing judgment on the increase of the spirit duties in 1852-58. The time for increasing the taxation may not have been happily chosen, as I am disposed to believe; but the British Exchequer is justified in urging that the Irish nation did morally and physically benefit by paying less for its tea and sugar and more for its whisky. Since 1870
a great improvement in the condition of Ireland has taken place. It is always darkest before the dawn, and the Parliamentary inquiry into the taxation of Ireland in 1864-65, the Fenian outbreak of 1867, and the Reform Act of the same year, which enlarged the electorate in the democratic direction, made men pause and ask themselves whether all was well with Ireland; whether, in truth, force was the remedy it had been thought to be. That great advocate of political freedom and of goodwill among men-John Stuart Mill --raised his voice in favour of more considerate treatment of Ireland, and the generous and ardent verse of Swinburne enforced the philosopher's advice. In 1870 Mr. Gladstone himself produced the first of the long series of ameliorative measures which, proceeding from both the great parties of the State, have greatly improved the condition of Ireland.
The statesmen of both parties who have been instrumental in effecting this improvement have deserved and, in growing measure, are receiving the gratitude of Ireland; but in that gratitude Mr. Gladstone must ever hold the foremost place. For to him is due the conversion of the great Liberal party to kindlier and saner views on Ireland-views which, more recently, Conservative statesmen have been able, in some respects, to follow, and, in other respects, to improve upon.
I now come to the finance of the present day, and to illustrate my remarks I take the Estimates of the current year, 1911-12.
A few preliminary words may be said as to how a Budget Estimate is prepared. Its preparation in each department or branch of Government begins with the responsible officer lowest down in his particular grade of service. He takes as the basis of his calculation the actual payment on each head of account for the past year; he considers whether these figures call for increase or decrease, in the light of existing circumstances; and, subject to any official orders he may have received, he increases or decreases them accordingly, or allows them to stand unaltered. He reports his conclusions to his official superior in a prescribed form.
That official superior probably receives several such estimates from other subordinates; and all of these, with his own additions or modifications, he combines into a consolidated estimate for his charge and forwards it to his official chief. The latter, if not the bead of a department, goes through a precisely similar process; and, if the head of a department controlled by the Irish Government, he forwards to Dublin Castle a consolidated estimate for his department, modified or unmodified, as his judgment directs. The Irish Government, in its turn, scrutinises these depa ntal estimates, and forwards them to the Treasury in Whitehall, with such modifications as it may think fit to suggest.
The Treasury deals with them in a similar manner, and they finally see the light of publicity in the Estimates laid before the House of Commons and discussed in Committee of Supply, where the amounts stated in the estimates are voted in whole or in part. With negligible exceptions, they are usually voted without alteration, for one result of the existing Parliamentary congestion of business is that no time can be found for the discussion of Irish estimates. The money is then nominally available for expenditure ; but there remains the necessity of convincing the Treasury that, though voted by Parliament, the money ought to
That being the procedure under which the estimates are framed, let us consider the control which the Lord-Lieutenantthat is, the Irish Government-exercises over the expenditure of
The Irish estimates and votes for the present year, as I make out, are fifty-eight in number. An individual description of them is not necessary; it will suffice to gather them into groups. The first group embraces the departments and votes under the executive control of the Lord-Lieutenant; there are eighteen of these, with estimates aggregating 2,359,4511.---two-thirds of the expenditure being on the police establishments and lunatic asylums.
The second group comprises the departments which submit estimates through the Lord-Lieutenant, but are only partially under his control; they are ten in number, with estimates aggregating 2,436.2511.
The third group consists of two departments, the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, for which the Chief Secretary, and not the Lord-Lieutenant, is responsible; and the Congested Districts Board, which controls itself. The estimates for these two departments aggregate 456,5191., though I have an idea that certain Irish Church surplus funds are not here included.
The fourth group, consisting of fourteen departments and votes, is exempt from all control in Ireland and subject to the Treasury in Whitehall. Its estimates aggregate 4,190,0551.
The fifth group consists of the purely Imperial departments represented in Ireland, and is under Imperial control. Its estimates aggregate 1,689,0501. Besides these there are the Irish charges on the Consolidated Fund (chiefly for judges' salaries), amounting to 158,5001. ; and finally there is the Local Taxation Account, amounting to 1,142,5001., which is managed by the Treasury Remembrancer, who is an Imperial officer stationed in Ireland, and exempt from Irish control.
Therefore, it comes to this : the Irish Government has only an advisory voice in Irish finance, and controls only one-fifth of the money spent in Ireland. Its partial control over the expenditure of another fifth is often contested. Over the remaining three-fifths it has no control whatever.
If, then, it be asked, “What is the financial system of the Irish Government? 'I can only reply, 'It has none. The Irish Government is a mere disbursing agency; and for information as to Irish finance you must look, not to Dublin Castle, but to the Treasury at Whitehall.' If, further, it be inquired what has been the financial policy of the Imperial Government in regard to Ireland since it assumed the responsibility of the Irish Exchequer, my answer is : A policy which until recently was directed with a view to British interests alone and which paid no regard to the special necessities of Ireland—a policy of increased taxation, coupled with resistance to Irish demands, or of grudging concession to Irish importunity. The hardship on Ireland was intensified by the fact that little or nothing of the revenue drawn from her was returned, as it is returned in Great Britain, in the shape of the wages and profits arising from or attaching to the manifold activities which serve the various Departments of State. The only return made to Ireland was in the shape of enhanced salaries or additional Government appointments and doles, which do not enrich a country, but rather weaken the springs of national self-reliance.
It is only within the last twenty years that statesmanlike and generous views have prevailed in Whitehall on the subject of Irish finance. In the Light Railways Act, the Purchase of Land Acts (particularly the great Act of 1903), the Local Government Act, the Agricultural Department Act, the Labourers' Acts, the Universities Act (although I disagree with the lines which this Act has followed, and think that the University College at Galway has been shabbily treated), and the Old Age Pension Act in its application to Ireland, it must be admitted that financial
liberality has gone hand in hand with administrative ability of a high order, and the statesmen of both parties to whom these Acts are due have already reaped their reward in the improved condition of the country. The pity of it, that all these beneficent Acts, except the last mentioned, should be directly or indirectly the product of sustained agitation, without which, as five Irishmen out of every six believe, they would not have been conceded.
Vuch remains to be done by the Imperial Parliament to complete the land-purchase scheme, on which rests as on bed-rock the prosperity and pacification of Ireland. But, apart from landpurchase, the time is ripe for that reconstruction and reorganisation of Irish government, whereby the Irish people, in full subordination to the Imperial Parliament, shall control their expenditure and direct the administration of their purely local affairs in the light of the full knowledge which they alone possess.
I have lately read speeches by important Unionist statesmen urging that no alteration in the framework of Irish government was necessary-and that all that Ireland now needed was persistence in the ameliorative policy of the last twenty years. These gentlemen forget that the system, or rather want of system, of Irish government has been a bye-word of reproach for a generation among intelligent men; and that no such chaotic jumble of administrative agencies exists in any country of the world as Ireland presents at the present moment. They appear to believe that the growth of a better feeling in Ireland towards Great Britain and greater self-reliance or independence among the Irish people are positive disqualifications for an extension of self-government. They forget that their own leaders, Mr. Balfour and Lord Langdowne-during the Parliamentary debates in February 1905, designated the government of Ireland as a complicated system and 'an old-fashioned and complicated organisation. They ignore the sentiment of nationality to which Ireland has clung during seven centuries of suffering and strife. Of the strength and vivifying force of that sentiment I know of no better description than the following, given by the Prime Minister before a Welsh audience a few weeks ago :
But may I not say with general acceptance that it is the tributaries of nationality, kept clean and pure and undefiled, whose confluence has enriched and continues to enrich both in volume and in quantity the central stream of our national life? That seems to me one of the lessons which is most clearly inscribed upon the page of universal history. In that ancient country of Greece, from which many of us have derived our best inspirations and knowledge, it was the sense of the separate, local, individual, and particular communities which was 80 strong and so obstinate that it defied, and defied successfully, for centuries all attempts at incorporation in a united whole. On the other hand, if you look at any of the great Imperial organisations of the ancient world, the Roman Empire and the rest, you find the exact contrary. You find the extremities sacrificed to the centre, with the result-congestion, atrophy, decay.
A special contribution, or at any rate one of the special contributions, which we in this country may claim to have made to the solution of a secular problem is the reconciliation of sturdy and persistent local independence with combination for common purposes, loyal in its spirit and united in its activity.
We are now questioning the future, as to what conditions of settlement it will bring forth in connexion with the promised Home Rule Bill. We are all anxious on this point, because the financial settlement that may be made must, at all events potentially, have the element of finality, if our statesmanship is to be approved by the country. In view of that circumstance, I submit the following suggestions, which may enable Irishmen in particular to appreciate the real bearings and merits of the settlement that may be offered to them next year.
An opinion has been expressed in certain quarters that the only satisfactory settlement of the Irish financial difficulty lies in the grant to Ireland of fiscal autonomy, and in the reduction of Irish government expenditure. Ireland, it is said, is living on too grand a scale : suitable, perhaps, for Great Britain, with her abounding wealth and industry, but not suitable for an agricultural country, neglected in the past. Ireland, we are told, should free herself from entanglement in British finance, reduce her taxation and order her expenditure on an economical scale.
I agree that there is need for economy in Irish expenditure. Some of our establishments are maintained on a too lavish scale, while certain other branches of the Administration-I instance education and public works--are starved. But, knowing something of the directions in which savings can be made, I desire to say emphatically that unless all expenditure on social betterment is abandoned and Irish administrative standards are reduced below the English and Scotch level, no such economies can be effected as would suffice to meet from the Irish 'true' revenue, which in 1908-9 stood at 9} millions sterling, the charges of Irish government and the outlay which Ireland's neglected condition calls for.
It is true that when Land Purchase operations are completed, when the congested Districts Board has done its work, and when the condition of the country under the new administration permits of a substantial reduction in the cost of the police and the Judiciary and of some minor official agencies, a saving of one and a-half to two millions sterling per annum will be practicable. But many years must pass before all these economies can be effected; and meantime the grant of Home Rule or the devolution of large powers to a new government will cause some immediate additional expenditure.