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This is 1,423,0001. less than the actual grants of last year, and admitting that the supplemental estimates this year may be 400,0001. as they were last year, there will be considerably over a reduction of a million. The Revenue for the coming year on the present footing, before any reductions are made, the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated as follows: Customs
23,320,000 Stamps .
2,350,000 Income Tax
9,950,000 Post Office
4,770,000 Crown Lands
Total £74,915,000 This would give a net increase of 380,0001. on last year's Revenue, and, compared with the estimated Expenditure of 71,313,0001., leaves a surplus of 3,602,0001, in Mr. Lowe's hands for the reduction of taxation. Passing at once to this part of the Budget, he stated, first, that the exemptions under the House Tax would be extended so as to include premises occupied as offices, and this would cost the Revenue 50,0001. Next he proposed to reduce the Customs duties on coffee and chicory, and the excise on chicory by one-half. Thus the duty on ground and roasted coffee will be reduced from 4d. to 2d. per lb.; on raw coffee, from 288. to 148. per on chicory, from 26s. 6d. to 138. 3d. per cwt.; and the Excise duty on chicory will be reduced from 248. 3d. to 12s. ld. per cwt. The whole cost of this operation will be 230,0001. Dealing next with the Income Tax, he announced that the abatement of 601. now permitted on incomes under 2001. will be increased to 801., and will be extended to incomes under 3001. At present, 273,000 persons claim the abatement, and this number will be increased to 440,000, and the cost will be 310,0001. Finally, Mr. Lowe was loudly cheered when he stated that he would undo what he had been obliged to do last year, and would take off the twopence extra imposed last year, at a sacrifice to the Revenue of 2,700,0001. The total remissions of taxation amount to 3,290,0001.—the Revenue for the year 1872-73 is brought down to 71,625,0001., and the estimated surplus is reduced to an actual surplus of 312,0001.
The customary desultory conversation followed, in the course of which Mr. White repeated his complaint that Mr. Lowe habitually under-estimated the Revenue ; Mr. Sclater-Booth dissented from Mr. Lowe's views as to the expediency of supplementary Estimates; Mr. Powell and Mr. Greene complained that the brewers' licences had not been reduced, and Mr. Pease found fault with the continuance of the heavy military expenditure. Mr. W. Fowler, Mr. Harcourt, and Mr. Muntz also complained of the extravagance of the Estimates, and the falsification of all the promises of economy; while Mr. Gordon, Mr. A. Kinnaird, and Mr. Read joined in calling for some reduction in the tax on agricultural horses and shepherds' dogs, and Mr. Grieve advocated the claims of the Sugar Duties to remission. Mr. Crawford expressed a general approval of the Budget, and Mr. Alderman Lawrence repeated his objections to the House Tax, which he insisted ought to be abolished.
Mr. Ward Hunt criticized Mr. Lowe's arguments on Supplementary Votes, and his statements as to the balances, and reminded him that he had omitted to mention whether he intended to re-impose the Tea Duties which expire this year, and also to explain how the three millions and a half for the barracks were to be raised.
Colonel Barttelot congratulated Mr. Lowe on having produced a commonplace Budget. Sir T. Sinclair characterized it as a rich man's Budget. Mr. Macfie, Mr. Bowring, Mr. Monk, Mr. M‘Mahon, Mr. Scourfield, Mr. G. Bentinck, and Sir G. Jenkinson also made some observations, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer having replied, the necessary resolutions for amending the Income Tax, House Tax, and Coffee Duties, and for continuing the Tea Duties were agreed to. The Budget was accepted with but little objection, and a subsequent motion by Mr. Vernon Harcourt for a large reduction of the expenditure met with but little support. All parties concurred in the repeal of the Irish Party Processions Act, which, notwithstanding the desire of the Government to be impartial, had been exclusively applied to the repression of Orange celebrations. The Ballot Bill, the Scotch Education Bill, the Mines' Regulation Bill, the Licensing Bill, the scheme for the organization of the Army, and the Public Health Bill form a list of measures which may tend to correct exaggerated statements of the legislative incapacity of Parliament.
The Ballot Bill-Its progress through the House Mr. Leatham's Amendment
The Bill in the Lords The Lords’ Amendments--Collision between the Houses averted— The Bill passed - Pontefract and Preston Elections under the new Act — The Licensing Bill-Its introduction and provisions—It is passed-Discontent and riots in the country--Justice Keogh's Judgment on the Galway ElectionGreat excitement in Ireland-Protest of the Catholic Clergy--The Judgment upheld by the Common Pleas-Addresses of the Grand Juries in support of the Judge - Resignation of Lord Granard-Debate and Division in the House of Commons—The Naval Estimates-Results and Statistics of the Session.
For the second time the Ballot Bill formed the main occupation of the Session, and after many checks and delays, caused by the obvious indifference and latent disapproval of the House, Mr. Forster accomplished his unsatisfactory task. The promoters of the Bill candidly admitted that the House of Lords had been justified in previously rejecting an incomplete measure, which was only brought under their consideration at the end of a Session. The second reading was carried in a thin and inattentive House, by a majority of 109 to 51, in the absence of the leaders of the Opposition. At one time only two members were present. Although Mr. Nolan, the new member for Kerry, made a good and pointed maiden address, and Mr. Beresford Hope kept the House amused, the only speeches of any importance were those of Mr. Dacre and Mr. Walter: the former ridiculed the trustee notion of the franchise, saying that non-electors clearly ought not to dictate for whom the franchise-holder should vote, as otherwise they would be the electors, and arguing that, as to Ireland, it was better she should return 80 Home-Rulers than that the electors should be discontented by inability to express their opinion. Mr. Walter, on the other hand, voted against the Ballot, arguing that its introduction was but preliminary to a new Reform Bill, which would abolish all little boroughs, and boroughs which are really fragments of counties, and enfranchise all county householders. 'He believed that these boroughs would, under the Bill, be bought wholesale, and that equal electoral districts would soon be inevitable. If the country was not prepared for that, it ought not to pass the Bill. He added, however, that he should oppose it no more.
The details of the Bill caused much difficulty and delay. In a speech in favour of securities against personation even Mr. Fawcett deprecated the system of secret voting; and throughout the long discussion many active members of the Liberal party seemed even more anxious to neutralize the effects of the Ballot than to secure the adoption of the novel form of voting. The abolition of Nominations, which was but accidentally connected with the Ballot Bill, met with general approval. Mr. M'Cullagh Torrens was defeated in an amendment for throwing the cost of elections on the Consolidated Fund by a large majority, and the Government, although Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Forster took the opportunity of proposing to pay the expenses out of the Rates, justly thought it useless, after the result of Sir Massey Lopes' motion, to propose any addition to local burdens. A decision against provisions for scrutiny was afterwards reversed in pursuance of a compromise with the House of Lords. The most animated part of the contest arose on an Amendment, proposed by Mr. Leatham, for punishing the disclosure of a vote at the polling-place by six months' imprisonment, with or without hard labour. The Biil, as it was introduced in 1871, included a penal clause, which was afterwards, among other provisions, which, according to Mr. Forster, were only of secondary importance, withdrawn, for the purpose of accelerating the progress of the measure. Mr. Leatham was, consequently, entitled to quote in support of his proposal the original intention of the Government, while his opponents, not less forcibly, appealed to the subsequent abandonment and to the more recent omission of the clause. It was opposed from the Liberal benches by Mr. Harcourt, Lord Bury, Sir H. Hoare, and Mr. Fawcett, who declared it to be an unbearable novelty and an unnecessary piece of tyranny to compel a man to vote in secret if he did not wish, and to treat the exposure of his ballot-paper as a heinous crime. Mr. Harcourt proposed to substitute “with corrupt intent" for "wilfully," and this amendment was supported by Lord J. Manners, Mr. Birley, Mr. Cross, Mr. A. Egerton, and others, who urged the folly of legislating against public opinion, and predicted that no judge or jury would convict for such an offence. On the other hand, Mr. Forster, supported by Mr. Muntz and Mr. James, supported the original amendment, arguing that the Ballot, being for the repression of bribery and intimidation, is useless if an elector has the means of proving how he has voted.
Mr. Leatham, in defending his own proposal, sharply attacked Mr. Fawcett, who, he declared, on this as on other occasions, had turned his back on his principles.
The Committee divided on Mr. Harcourt's amendment, but the Tellers for the Ayes not agreeing, a second division became necessary. In this Mr. Harcourt carried the omission of the word “ wilfully" from Mr. Leatham's amendment by a majority of one 167 to 166. This result was received by the Opposition with enthusiastic cheering, and Mr. Forster at once rose and moved to report progress.
Two days later the fight was resumed in an exceedingly crowded and excited House, Sir George Grey, Mr. Childers, and Mr. Bouverie all supporting Mr. Harcourt, who made one of his clever ad captandum speeches, not touching the point at issue, but belabouring the Government for holding so hard by a provision which they owed to Mr. Leatham, and not to their own Bill, while Mr. Bouverie proposed that a constable should be present at every polling-booth with handcuffs ready, and that the prison van should be waiting at the door" to convey the free and independent British elector to the treadmill." A division was taken amidst great excitement, for it was obviously going against the Government; and the result was a defeat of the Government by 28 in a full House (246 to 274), about 40 Liberals voting in the majority, and 12 absenting themselves. It was of course hardly possible for the Prime Minister to declare as absolutely essential to the Bill,-even though it really were so-a provision not in last year's Bill at the time when it passed the House of Commons, and accidentally omitted when the Bill was redrawn this year, and he therefore declared that he would take the Bill without this provision rather than lose it altogether; and Mr. Forster agreed to accept a modified form of Mr. Harcourt's amendment, which runs thus :-“No person shall, directly or indirectly, induce any voter to display his ballot-paper after he shall have marked the same, so as to make known to any person the name of the candidate for or against whom he has so marked his vote ;” and for doing this the penalty is to be three months' imprisonment with hard labour.
Mr. Gladstone then announced it as his intention to proceed with the Bill, notwithstanding a defeat which must have been immediately mortifying, and which, as the result proved, served as an encouragement to the House of Lords to mutilate the Bill. A great debate followed, and a proposal by Mr. Synan that the presiding officer should mark the
for voter who could not read. Mr. Forster resisted this at first as dangerous to secrecy, but subsequently gave way. Mr. James was very sorrowful over the amendment, but it passed by 242 to 88. When the report was brought up, a desperate effort to retain nomination-days was defeated, chiefly by Mr. Bernal Osborne. A great fight about the hours of polling, as to which the Government had proposed a sliding scale according to the season, ended in a general expression of a wish to retain the present practice. The third reading of the measure, which Mr. Gladstone once described as the “People's Bill,” was at last, notwithstanding Mr. Disraeli's calculated reticence, only carried by a majority of 58 in a full House (276 to 218). Mr. Maguire's attempt to recommit for the purpose of getting rid of the clause which enables the returning officer to give his assistance to “illiterate” voters was defeated by a majority of 218 (277 to 61), and the third reading was carried after a rather tame debate, in which Mr. Forster recapitulated forcibly the provisions in favour of secrecy,-showing that the Bill makes it illegal to exhibit your vote,--and described the Bill as the strongest Ballot Bill in existence, except that of South Australia. Six Conservatives in the end supported the Bill, and though only one Liberal, Mr. Agar Ellis (Kilkenny), voted against it, a great many stayed away.
During the temporary withdrawal of the greater chiefs, Sir Stafford Northcote expressed on this the latest opportunity the wellfounded and consistent objection of his party to a system which, whatever may be its bearing on corruption, tends to diminish the legitimate influence of character and station.
Thus, after months of weary labour, Mr. Forster passed his Bill almost as it originally stood. The conduct of the Bill in the House of Lords was once more entrusted to Lord Ripon, who shares with Mr. Forster the exceptional qualification of having been a supporter of the principle of secret voting before it became a Ministerial question. In moving the second reading he said that the plea of insufficient time put forward last session for postponing the consideration of the measure could not now be urged, while the undiminished desire of the other House for the Bill was shown by the large majorities by which it had been sent up. Defining its main objects to be such an improvement in our electoral machinery as would establish greater order and regularity, put an end to intimidation, and greatly diminish the evils of bribery, he quoted the despatches of Mr. Du Cane and Sir J. Ferguson to show the advantageous working of the ballot in our Australian colonies, and cited the elections under the London School Board as further evidence of the good order produced by secret voting. Apologizing for travelling over the argu