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As to reduction of taxation and living on a lower scale, let us ask ourselves what are the concrete realities behind these finesounding phrases. The standard of comfort among the Irish people is, notoriously, not high but low. The people are refusing to live on the existing scale; they want a better, and they are getting it since our Land Laws have secured to them the fruits of their industry. It is not living on a lower scale that is wanted, but on a higher.
Then as to taxation. Out of the 94 millions sterling forming the 'true' revenue of Ireland six millions (round figures) come from the Customs duties on wine and tobacco, and the Excise duties on spirits and beer. The existing consumption of alcoholic liquor and tobacco seems to me to be suitable to the social and climatic conditions of Ireland. But while I do not advocate an increase in the duties on these articles, I believe a decrease would have the lamentable effect of increasing consumption, and, I may add, diminishing revenue. It is not in that direction that Ireland should look for a reduction in taxation.
The balance of the Irish taxation-3 millions-is made. up of the Customs duties on tea and sugar, tea and sugar, the various property taxes, the stamp duties, and the income tax. A reduction in the proceeds of the income tax will take place automatically by the substitution of tenant purchasers, who are usually not liable to the tax, for the landlords who are. And the same result may, in connexion with the probate and estate duties and the legacies and succession duties, be expected pro tanto to ensue.
There remain the Customs duties on articles of necessary consumption; and as these do not yield more than a million sterling per annum, they afford but a slight margin for reduction. In these circumstances I suggest that, in a fiscally autonomous Ireland, it is not a reduction of taxation that the country would have to look to, but rather to an increase.
Finally, as to the entanglements of British finance, I would say that we have gone through them: we have suffered from them; but we have emerged from the ordeal, and are on the road to happier things, under a moderate tariff. a moderate tariff. While I am in favour of conferring on Ireland a large measure of independent financial power, as I shall explain in a moment, I would not set about the business by isolating her from the Empire, and sacrificing the advantages that, through suffering and travail, she has gained.
But it may be suggested that under a régime of fiscal autonomy Ireland could break away from the established tariff, introduce Protection, and make the foreigner pay her taxes. On that suggestion I have these remarks to make.
In the first place I do not think that, even if Protection were not the heresy I believe it to be, Ireland could gain anything by
it. This is not the occasion on which to develop the argument; but in support of my statement I desire to refer to an article on the subject in the Economist of the 16th ultimo, which shows that the trade of Ireland is such as to hold out no hopes that even from successful Protection (if that be thinkable) she could make any tangible gain.
In the next place the demand for fiscal autonomy for Ireland seems to me to ignore the teachings of the past. The possession of fiscal autonomy by Grattan's Parliament was among the chief causes-if, indeed, not the chief cause-of that Parliament's extinction. The possession of fiscal autonomy by the Isle of Man converted the Isle in the eighteenth century into a depôt of smuggling, and led to the withdrawal of its fiscal independence. Hedge about the grant of fiscal autonomy to Ireland as you will, by precautions and conditions designed to safeguard British trade with Ireland, still the situation must produce numberless embarrassments. It is, in my opinion, idle to expect that Great Britain would now permit the growth near the heart of the Empire of any commercial system which might in any circumstances conflict with her own. Commercial motives have ever been the mainspring of British policy; and a proposal which, in conceivable circumstances, might place that policy in jeopardy seems to me to stand small chance of real lasting approval from the British people, even though its immediate acceptance might be a relief to the Imperial Treasury.
Believing, as I do, that no larger measure of Home Rule should be granted to Ireland than may at a later hour be suitably conceded to the other nationalities forming the United Kingdom, I am unable to conceive how under Home Rule All Round' varying fiscal systems could be made compatible with the solidarity of the United Kingdom. I am unable to conceive how Ireland, Scotland, or Wales could practice Free Trade towards England, a Free Trade country, while they were Protectionist to the rest of the world.
Again, fiscal autonomy for Ireland, of course, involves the exclusion of Ireland from the Imperial Parliament-the Great Council of the Empire. In that exclusion I see the fertile source of misapprehension, friction, and estrangement, and the lessening of that participation by Ireland in the multiform activities of Empire from which my country and Great Britain are now reaping so many mutual advantages.
I am an Irishman, anxious to promote the prosperity and independence of Ireland within the Empire; but I say, without hesitation, that if we Irishmen are not to participate in the Imperial Parliament, if we are to have no claim, in any circumstances, on Great Britain in the future, if the sole badge of our connexion with the United Kingdom is to be the obligation of obedience to orders
reversing our legislative or administrative action, then, I fear, we are preparing for Ireland, in the not far distant future, a path of doubt and isolation as thorny as any she has yet trodden.
Let me suggest one matter of practical business for consideration. The Imperial Treasury has already advanced to Ireland about 60,000,000l. for land-purchase, and it will require about twice that amount, or 120,000,000l. more, to complete this great measure of appeasement and conciliation-the greatest remedial measure by far ever undertaken for the good of Ireland. I venture to say that no one who knows Ireland thinks that the remaining 120,000,000l. sterling could be borrowed by Ireland on her own responsibility, except on prohibitive terms. If Ireland could raise the amount in the open market (which I doubt), she could not do so at less than 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. interest; and that would mean the cessation of land-purchase, because it would not pay tenants, having the Land Act of 1881 to fall back upon for reduction of rents, to buy at that price. The land-purchase operations must, then, be completed by the Imperial Treasury; but if so, the Imperial Treasury will insist, and properly insist, that the British taxpayer shall be free from risks. With Ireland under a system of fiscal autonomy, I do not see how that freedom is to be secured beyond doubt as it now is.
The alternative-and the only alternative-course to fiscal autonomy is to leave the imposition and collection of Imperial taxation of the United Kingdom, as at present, with the Imperial Parliament, but to secure to Ireland freedom in administering her share of it. That general principle is not inconsistent with a grant to Ireland of power to impose subsidiary taxation, if suitable subjects for it are discovered which do not trench on the sources of Imperial revenue; nor, as I shall subsequently show, is it inconsistent with the grant to the Irish Legislature of a power to alter the scale of Irish taxation under suitable conditions. I may add that this course is also the course most compatible with the principle (which omnium consensu, as I had thought, rules this controversy) that matters affecting the United Kingdom as a whole should be managed by the Imperial Parliament, matters of purely Irish concern being managed by Ireland.
Assuming, then, that the imposition and collection of the taxes continues to be made by the Imperial Parliament for the United Kingdom as a whole, the questions arise, What share of them belongs to Ireland? and What powers of financial administration and control should be delegated to Ireland in respect of that share? It is now alleged by the Unionist Party that Ireland can no longer pay her way, that she has become a pensioner on Great Britain's bounty; and that British generosity in this respect is being overtaxed. The fact that the Irish 'true' revenue does not at present
VOL. LXXI-No. 419
suffice to meet all charges debited to Ireland is made the ground for asserting that Home Rule for Ireland is a financial impossibility.
My answer to that assertion is this: It proceeds on a radically false interpretation of Ireland's financial rights as an integral part of the United Kingdom under the Act of Union, which no one proposes to repeal.
Allowing it to be true that the revenue from Ireland is now insufficient to meet the Irish expenditure, and that, at the present time, Great Britain makes good the difference, I must still deny that Great Britain, in making good the deficit, does anything more than she is bound to do under the terms of the Act of Union. As I have already stated, the conditions of the Act are not unilateral but bilateral. Under the Act indiscriminate taxation goes hand in hand with indiscriminate expenditure in both countries. If England imposes indiscriminate taxation on Ireland, as she does, Ireland has the right to claim indiscriminate expenditure. The proceeds of Irish and British taxation flow into one Consolidated Fund; and the claims on that fund of each part of the United Kingdom are not limited by that part's contributions to it, or by geographical considerations. They are limited only by that part's necessities, and by the capacity of the fund to satisfy them, consistently with meeting the necessities of the other parts.
I have already referred to the payments by Ireland to Great Britain between 1801 and 1817. From 1817 up to date the contributions of Ireland to the joint account (as shown in Parliamentary White Paper, Cd. 221, of 1911) are stated at 325,000,0001. sterling, or an average of about 4,000,000l. per annum, an average which till recent years exceeded one-half of the annual revenue. I cite these figures to show that, apart from any rights claimable under the Act of Union, Ireland has strong reasons for claiming considerate treatment in any settlement to be now made. I might strengthen this claim by mentioning in detail the irremediable injury inflicted on Ireland by the British legislative and administrative action of the eighteenth century, whereby Irish industries and trade were deliberately destroyed in the commercial interests of Great Britain. But I content myself with a mere reference to these unhappy incidents, and rest my present argument on the terms of the Act of Union itself. Under these terms Ireland's legal and constitutional claim on the revenues of the United Kingdom is not limited to the portion of these revenues contributed by Ireland. Ireland in the past has suffered grievously from indiscriminate taxation as well as from over-taxation, and as benefits from indiscriminate expenditure have now begun to accrue to her, it would ill become Great Britain to deny her obligations
towards Ireland or to cast off the suppliant without full and proper compensation. Any settlement of the Irish financial question which would proceed on the basis of limiting Ireland strictly to her existing contributions to the Consolidated Fund will not be a fair and just settlement.
Observing this effect of the growth of the expenditure of the United Kingdom, some politicians advise Great Britain to cut her losses.' They do not say how this is to be done; but if it be by granting to Ireland fiscal autonomy, and presumably restricting her to the true revenues derived from within her shores, then, I submit, the advice needs to be reconsidered. 'Social betterment,' if applied by Parliament to one part of the United Kingdom, cannot be withheld from another part in equal measure. The 'Equivalent Grant,' too, is still in the administrative vocabulary. In these circumstances the grant of fiscal autonomy to Ireland might be good business' for the time, as saving Great Britain from loss, and enabling Ireland to lead what her people are said to want-the Simple Life. But in the long run it would not be to the advantage of either country.
The counsel I would venture to give my countrymen is this: 'Do not, at this critical moment of your country's fortune, give up the substance for the shadow; do not be led astray by the "will-o'-the-wisp" of political analogies or the illusions of patriotic sentiment from the solid ground of the rights you have won, and the favourable conditions to which, as part of the great democracy of the United Kingdom, you have gained access. That will be the best Ireland for you and for the Empire which secures to you the management of Ireland's domestic affairs within the Empire, with funds adequate to Ireland's needs, and growing with the Empire's prosperity. This can only be done by maintaining one uniform financial system for the United Kingdom, under which capital will rest secure, and commerce will be safe from novel experiments. Above all, do not be persuaded into thinking that Great Britain can guarantee to Ireland the fiscal or commercial independence which she yielded once before in a moment of weakness, only to take back when she felt herself strong. In the future, as in the past, circumstances may be too strong for any guarantee.'
The last points I shall submit for consideration are the sources from which should come the money to form what I will call the Irish Consolidated Fund.
I advocated in connexion with the Irish Council Bill what, in our Indian Empire, is called the Contract System of Financial Settlement. That system consists, in essence, of two processes. First, the ascertainment, in the way I have indicated in connexion with the preparation of Budget Estimates, of the amount