Agricultural land in the hands of the farmers who have bought their holdings under the Irish Land Acts has been made liable to extravagant burdens by the Lloyd George Budget. These peasant purchasers are treated as if they were “Dukes.” When they discover their real position, their resentment will be bitter. Form IV. has not yet been circulated among them. It has been kept back deliberately. It would not suit Mr. Redmond or the Ministry, should the Irish farmer discover what the actual working of the new Land taxes means while the legislative logs are still being rolled by the Radical-Socialist-Nationalist combination. When Home Rule is defeated Unionist finance should provide that the burden imposed by these taxes on agricultural progress and national prosperity shall be removed, and that the benefits conferred by the great Unionist policy of State purchase on the peasant proprietors shall not be allowed to be filched away by the Socialist budget, though it was by that very Irish party, whose first duty should have been to protect them, that the Irish farmers’ interests have been betrayed.
It was found by the Financial Relations Commission that Ireland contributed a revenue in excess of her relative capacity. Mr. Childers, in his draft report, suggested that practical steps might possibly be taken to give Ireland relief or afford her equitable compensation in three different ways—
(1) By so altering the general fiscal policy of the United Kingdom as to make the incidence of taxation fall more lightly on Ireland. It was suggested that the taxation upon tea, tobacco, and spirits, which weigh more heavily on Ireland in proportion to her relative capacity, because of the habits of the people, and the larger proportion in Ireland of the poorer classes, might be reduced and a part of the burden transferred to other commodities. It was, however, felt, he said, that this would open up questions of such magnitude—like Free Trade and the incidence of taxation as between different classes—that it would be inexpedient to urge it, when the object in view was the solution of a pressing difficulty with regard to Ireland taken apart from the rest of the United Kingdom. But that difficulty will be removed under Tariff Reform—one-sided Free Trade is no longer a sacrosanct fetish—and the case of Ireland must be taken not as apart from, but as part of, the United Kingdom. Irish interests, Agricultural and Industrial, can be far better promoted, furthered, and secured under a scientific tariff system than under the so-called free trade system, which insists on the fallacy that identity of imposts means equality of burden, and concentrates its pressure on the great Irish industries of brewing, distillery, and tobacco manufacturing; a system which taxes heavily tea—the great article of consumption—and has brought peculiar disaster on agriculture. Therefore,