((Address to the Chamber of Deputies))
Lately in this Chamber, I railed against the Minister of Finance for his silence, for his gross neglect in publishing a Budget for the last 2 years. I regret such remarks. I now acknowledge that his silence would have been infinitely preferable to the blatant fraud which he has sought to inflict upon the King and France.
I admit that during my time as Minister of Finance I earned the enmity of all sides of the Chamber, a somewhat unique achievement. However, I was honest and unflinching in my appraisal of France's financial position. I offered unpleasant medicine which cured the patient. I did not play false or deceive.
The Budget presently before seeks to conceal to please. It denies the problem and therefore magnifies the dilemna. Do we admit the state of our financial situation or pretend to be richer than we are, to deny the need to rebuild our treasury after the devastation of Napoleon's wars, to return the bad old days of Baron Necker and publish fantasies dressed up as Books of Account?
The Budget seeks to paint a picture of health with a 49 Million Franc surplus. It is quite simply and frankly a tissue of lies.
In order to achieve this result, it has cut expenditure on our Army of 55%. The allocation for Military, on the eve of war, is 210 Million Francs less than our expenditure in 1821 in a time of peace. Our Army is not 55% smaller. The soldiers do not eat 55% less food, the horses do not eat 55% less hay, the men can not shoot 55% less bullets, nor can the cannons use 55% less powder. All this penny pinching as we send Armies across the Pyrenees, where it was the countryside, and not enemy armies which wore down Bonaparte's troops.
How can we fight a war with less than half the money we needed to keep peace? This is a most criminal act and the Minister must be called to account before this chamber and flayed alive for such betrayal of our brave troops.
But sadly, this tale of deceit worsens the more we read, or rather do not read, in the Budget. There has been no allowance whatsoever for the 500 Million Franc allocation for the Law of Rectification of Property. There has been no allocation of the stipend paid by the State to members of the Clergy and the additional payments for the Law for Education. The receipts trumpet the removal of the Inheritance Tax, which occurred in any event given its 2 year limitation, but conceals that it has maintained the Loyalty Levy which was intended to also be limited for 2 years. The Receipts have also failed to disclose the loss of Stamp Duty income from the repeal of the Law for the Recognition of the Bourse and the loss of license fees from the Repeal of Printing private Specie. There has been a deliberate concealment of our expenditures and earnings to present a false picture of the state of the treasury. That is nothing less than Fraud. The Minister must be held accountable and it must happen immediately.
I therefore renew my call for a vote of No Confidence in the Minister for Finance!
Turning to the bills before this Chamber, I will vote in favour of the Infrastructure Development Bill but only as a entry point for future expansion. The present drafting shows a complete lack of commerciality. The allowance of only 250,000 Francs for incentives for private development reveals a total failure to appreciate the costs of construction and maintenance of highways. It is laudable that the Minister in question seeks to encourage such works. It is truly in the spirit of Baron Turgot. However, Turgotian economics also notes that reward must match risk, that the incentive by the State must be repaid, and that there must be a mechanism for evolution. These are entirely lacking in this legislation. There is no balancing of costs and returns. There is no provision for the duration of entitlements to payments to owners or repayment of incentives to the State. There is no mechanism for supervision or revision. It is all in all a fascinating artifact of the nobility imagining what commerce is like and nothing like the reality of the world of supply and demand.
The Law on the Voluntary Gendarme must be opposed. On its face, it is nothing more than the forming of a private militia for the Ministry, the gathering of bully boys and ne'er do wells bought off for 4 Francs to do 1 day a week for the personal bidding of the Minister. This income is 5 times the weekly income of a labourer. Instead of encouraging work in the factory, producing goods for sale, and increasing the wealth of the Nation, this Bill would encumber the Budget with 4 francs per week for 10,000 men to live off the public purse for total cost of 2 Million Francs per annum, so that the Minister can deliver rough justice to his opponents.
The proposed Bill for the amendment of the Penal Code has some laudable revisions but also some deplorably sloppy drafting. In particular Article V Section 87 is proposed to be amended in a such vague and broad terms as to cause offence to all and offer protection to none. The proposed amendments seek to elevate Ministers of State to the status of the King. Such hubris is breathtaking in its audacity. And then it extends this aura to the lowliest public servant. By all means, offer protection to Ministers of the State and our bureaucrats but do not elevate them to become petty kings over us.
The section then seeks to impose death on those who destroy "certain classes of society" but does not defines "classes" or say which classes. Would not Robespierre say that the Nobility was seeking to destroy the working class? Did Danton not use this as an excuse for the Terror? Is the Minister seeking to call death upon each of us with a new Terror? This amendment cannot stand.
The amendments then ridiculously call for death for any who advocate regicide or revolution against any lawful monarch, whether in France or abroad, in the past, present or future, without limitation or exception. Whilst the evil speech by a certain notorious former member recently given is well known, this proposed amendment uses a cannon to kill a mouse. On its interpretation the most farcical results are achieved. Are we to put to death anyone who publishes the Histories of Livy because they praise Brutus overthrowing proud Tarquin? Or anyone who publishes Shakespeare's plays about the English War of the Roses? Or any historian who discusses Pepin deposing Childeric? Shall we cause offence to the British Royalty who deposed the Stuarts? Or to the Russian Tzar because the Romanovs deposed the Grand Duke of Muscovy so many centuries ago? This must not stand or we will be regarded as a laughing stock amongst the civilized world.
Finally, the proposed changes to Article VII Sections 201 and 204 are laughable for the vagueness. What is meant by "stir up"? How many people does it take to form a "part of the citizens"? Shall a brother gathering the support of his neighbours in his quarrel with his sibling's family fall foul of this law? Shall the State stick its fingers into every petty argument and dispute? Surely these words should be deleted and the sections retain their intended remedy of outlawing public unrest.
A Law on the Amendment of the Law of Repression of Crimes and Offenses committed by the Press: Non
Law on the Amendment of the Penal Code: Non
Law on the Infrastructure : Oui
Law on the Gendarmerie: Non
[Bonus: Liberal Id +1.5PP]