revenue should be only Ireland herself can discover in the future. What her right expenditure should be she alone can determine. We can only work upon the data we have before us. Economy cannot be instantaneous, either in Ireland or anywhere else. Assume, then, an initial deficit in the Irish balance-sheet on the basis of present taxation. Its exact size cannot affect the manner of dealing with it. How are we to deal with it?

Let us dismiss at once the theory of “restitution” with the earnest hope that we shall hear nothing of it in the coming controversy. No Irishman will argue that a subsidy to the extent of, or exceeding the deficit, is a good thing in itself, and should be large and lasting because it will represent compensation for money unfairly exacted in the past. It is, indeed, true that the Union impoverished Ire land, but the most grievous wrong was moral, and for that wrong alone is reparation possible. Home Rule is not worth fighting for if it has not as its end and aim a self-reliant and self-supporting Ireland. Nor does it improve the argument in the least to represent the subsidy as productive expenditure for the purpose of raising Ireland's taxable capacity and improving her economic position. No money raised outside of Ireland will have that effect. Once admit the principle of restitution, and where are you to stop ? What rational or scientific limit can be set to it? More pertinent question still, what are the conditions which will inevitably be imposed in exchange ? Ireland cannot have it both ways. She must either hold out for financial independence or, for every financial boon, submit to a corresponding deduction from her political liberty.

If there were no alternative between financial independence without a farthing of temporary aid, and permanent financial dependence with a permanent loss of liberty, it would pay Ireland a thousandfold in the future to choose the former scheme, remodel taxation promptly to meet the initial deficit, and with equal promptitude set on foot such a drastic reduction of expenditure as would ensure the rapid attainment of a proper financial equilibrium. When once the Irish realized the issue, they would accept the responsibility with all its attendant sacrifices, which would no doubt be severe.

But there is an alternative, and that is to make good the initial deficit, whatever the financial authorities finally pronounce it to be, with an initial subsidy of equal size, or perhaps of somewhat greater size so as to admit of a small initial surplus, but destined to diminish by stated amounts, and within a few years to terminate. To such assistance, given unconditionally, Ireland has an unanswerable claim, and to such assistance she ought, in my opinion, to limit her claim. Until two years ago she contributed uninterruptedly, and sometimes excessively, to the support of the Empire. With men and money she has made efforts for the common weal which no self-governing Colony has made, though she has been treated, politically and financially, as not even a Crown Colony has been treated. Just at the point where the self-governing Colonies, thanks to the liberty allowed them, are beginning to contribute indirectly to the defence of the Empire, Ireland, as the ultimate result of a century of coercive government, ceases to contribute. She can claim honourably, if she wills, to be placed, by temporary financial aid from the authority which is responsible for her undoing, in the financial position of a self-governing Colony.

From the British point of view it is difficult to see any valid objection to the course suggested. There will be no stinginess in the settlement. Even if there were any disposition in that direction, it would be idle to grudge the initial subsidy, because an equivalent sum is already being paid. The Union will infallibly continue to accentuate the deficit and increase the resulting burden on the taxpayers of Great Britain. The plan proposed would eventually remove that burden. But, obviously, its success hinges on the concession of full financial powers to an Ireland unrepresented at Westminster. In their own interests, if not for very shame, Englishmen should decline to make use of the old adage, that “he who pays the piper should call the tune.” For more than a century Ireland paid the piper and England called the tune—and what a tune, and with what results ! Representation has nothing to do with the case. Precedents are needless, but there are, as a fact, many.

any. Crown Colonies have frequently received free grants for the relief of distress—Jamaica and other West Indian islands, for example. The Transvaal and Orange River Colony received several millions after the war

to enable the ruined farmers to start business on a footing of solvency. During the whole period of their adolescence, and, indeed, until quite a recent date, all the self-governing Colonies were virtually subsidized by the allocation of British forces for local defence, maintained at the Imperial charge. And Ireland paid her share of this charge. Similar garrisons were, are, and will be, maintained in Ireland. Yes, but Ireland contributed to their cost, and in course of time will, it is to be hoped, resume her contributions with a gladder heart and a freer conscience than ever before.

Canada was economically stagnant under coercion. If, in her case, we had carried coercion as far as we carried it in Ireland, it would have been necessary to give her a temporary subsidy in order to enable her to assume the position of a self-governing Colony. Ireland's proximity does not alter economic laws. “Facts are stubborn things,” and these are the Irish facts. Duty apart, no more profitable investment could possibly be made by the British tax-payer than a subsidy designed to enable Ireland to stand on her legs again. The present tribute to her is a dead loss.

The subsidy, if given, ought, I submit, on no account to be earmarked, on the bad precedent set by the Bills of 1886 and 1893,* for any particular head of expenditure in Ireland, as for Police, Pensions, Land Commission, or Education. As I have shown previously, nothing is easier than to pick out items of excessive expenditure, or of under-expenditure, for which Ireland is not herself responsible. But to allocate a grant specially to any of these purposes would be superfluous unless the intention were to maintain Imperial control over the service in question. As I urged in Chapter X., none of the services mentioned above ought to be retained under Imperial control. Extravagance in the first three will not be properly checked, save by a responsible Ireland. Nor will extra money on Education be properly spent until it is raised and spent by Ireland. There are no other services, with the possible exception of Posts, to which a subsidy could possibly be applicable. Even in that case an earmarked subsidy would be out of place. But Posts are outside the point we are

* Both Bills provided for part payment of the cost of Irish Police from Imperial funds.

discussing. If for mutual convenience they were to be kept under Imperial control—a step which would not render imperative Irish representation at Westminster-their finance would remain, as at present, common to the whole United Kingdom. There is officially held, on bad evidence, to be a loss on Irish Posts of £249,000, and this loss is debited against Ireland, and goes to swell the deficit we have been considering. With the Posts under Imperial control, the initial deficit to be made good by subsidy would be reduced by the amount of the loss. Should it, however, be decided that Ireland is fairly entitled to a share of the large general profit earned by the Postal Services of the United Kingdom, the annual profit so attributable to Ireland would be set off against the annual subsidy as long as the subsidy lasted, and after it was at an end would be a clear item of revenue to Ireland. My own opinion, as I stated in Chapter X., is that the Irish postal system, whether standing by itself it shows a profit or a loss, ought to be under Irish control.


III. FUTURE CONTRIBUTION TO IMPERIAL SERVICES. This must be left a voluntary matter for Ireland, as it is for the self-governing Colonies. There is no contribution from Ireland at present, and to fix a future date at which a fixed contribution, like that from the Isle of Man, should begin, is a course hardly practicable even if it were desirable.


IRELAND'S SHARE OF THE NATIONAL DEBT. Until two years ago Ireland, of course, contributed, inter alia, to the annual interest and sinking fund, amounting in 1910-11 to £24,554,000, on the National Debt of the United Kingdom. It is impossible to estimate her share of the capital of the Debt, and I scarcely think that anyone would seriously propose to encumber the new Ireland with an old Debt, based on some arbitrary estimate. For the great bulk

of Debt created in the past she has little moral responsibility-no more, at any rate, than the self-governing Colonies. In this respect she must begin, like them, with a clean sheet.



On the other hand, Ireland, in consideration of the remissions mentioned, must renounce the share to which she is technically entitled of the Imperial Miscellaneous Revenue, derived mainly from Suez Canal shares and the Mint, and amounting altogether in 1910-11 to £2,769,500.*



Let us now come to close quarters with this important issue. The grand argument on the affirmative side is that the products of these duties represent nearly four-fifths of the tax revenue collected in Ireland. What are the objections ?

We need scarcely consider the general objection, sometimes made ostensibly in the interests of Ireland, that her public men have little financial experience. The fact is true, and it is not their fault. But the financial scheme cannot reasonably be based on a recognition of a temporary lack of experience.

I place Customs and Excise together because I believe there is no serious question of making a distinction between the two, and of allowing Ireland to levy and collect her own Excise duties, while denying her authority over Customs. It is true that until 1860 such a distinction was made, and a lower Excise duty levied upon Irish than upon British spirits ;t but the tendency in all modern States is to make the authority over Customs the same as that over Excise, and any departure from that principle, in the case of modern Ireland, is likely to cause considerable inconvenience. License Duties, which are included under the head of Excise, may, no doubt, without much inconvenience, be differentiated from the rest, but their Irish proceeds (£284,000) are too small to influence the question. * Return No. 220.

† See p. 234.

« VorigeDoorgaan »