If Irish interests are properly provided for, she should gain greatly under Tariff Reform. The effect of the Whig finance, inaugurated by Gladstone in 1853, accompanied by a rigid application of the Ricardian theories of political economy, and the continuous narrowing of the basis of indirect taxation, told against Ireland most severely, depleted her resources and retarded her progress. Sir Stafford Northcote thus addressed the House of Commons after twelve years’ experience of the Gladstone Budget:—
“The upshot of our present system of taxation has been to increase the taxation of the United Kingdom within the last ten or twelve years by 20 per cent., and they would find that whereas the taxation of England had increased by 17 per cent., that of Ireland had increased no less than 52 per cent, between 1851 and 1861. This disproportion had been brought about by laying upon Ireland the burden of the Income-tax and by heavily increasing the spirit duties, making use at the same time of these two great engines of taxation to relieve the United Kingdom, but more especially England, of particular fiscal impositions.... Taxation in these two parts have pressed so heavily on Ireland, it was incumbent upon the people of England to take into account the necessity of relieving Ireland in any way they could."
This plea of a great Conservative financial authority for that special consideration for Ireland to which she is entitled in fiscal matters under the Act of Union was not carried into effect until the Unionist administration of Lord Salisbury, in 1886. Then began, under the Chief Secretaryship of Mr. Arthur Balfour, that practical application of the “Exemptions and Abatements” clause of the Act of Union in the policy of Constructivism which has fructified so magnificently, and which, if allowed to continue uninterrupted by Home Rule, will lead Ireland to affluence.
The Lloyd George Budget penalised Ireland still further by exaggerating those methods of Whig finance which persistently narrowed the basis of indirect taxation and heaped up disproportionate imposts on a few selected articles—articles which are either very largely produced or very largely consumed in Ireland. The effect of Gladstone’s Budget of 1853 was to reduce the area under barley in Ireland by 134,000 acres in six years; the Lloyd George Budget has reduced the Irish barley crop by 10,000 acres in one year. Therefore in the framing of the Tariff Reform Budgets of the future, Ireland’s equitable claim under the Act of Union should be recognised and given effect to.