In an address to an overflow meeting in an adjacent hall, Lloyd George defiantly declared that amendments proposed by the Lords to the Finance Bill would not be accepted. The speech was well received by his audience and by Liberal supporters throughout the country. Predictably, it provoked wrathful protests from the Unionists, and also from the King; three days later Prime Minister Asquith found King Edward VII in a state of ‘great agitation and annoyance in consequence of [Lloyd George's] Limehouse speech. I have never known him more irritated, or more difficult to appease, though I did my best’.
In preparing his Limehouse speech, Lloyd George had two principal aims: to demonstrate the justice and fairness of his Budget proposals, and to warn the Unionists of their potential vulnerability should they reject it. Limehouse itself did not cause rejection of the People’s Budget, but it did strengthen the antagonism of those already opposed to it. Its rejection by the House of Lords led to a constitutional crisis and two general elections in 1910.
J. Graham Jones
“…..It is rather a shame for a rich country like ours – probably the richest in the world, if not the richest the world has ever seen, that it should allow those who have toiled all their days to end in penury and possibly starvation. It is rather hard that an old workman should have to find his way to the gates of the tomb, bleeding and footsore, through the brambles and thorns of poverty. We cut a new path for him, an easier one, a pleasanter one, through fields of waving corn. We are raising money to pay for the new road, aye, and to widen it, so that 200,000 paupers shall be able to join in the march. There are so many in the country blessed by Providence with great wealth, and if there are amongst them men who grudge out of their riches a fair contribution towards the less fortunate of their fellow-countrymen they are very shabby rich men. We propose to do more by means of the Budget. We are raising money to provide against the evils and the sufferings that follow from unemployment. We are raising money for the purpose of assisting our great friendly societies to provide for the sick and the widows and orphans. We are providing money to enable us to develop the resources of our own land. I do not believe any fair-minded man would challenge the justice and the fairness of the objects which we have in view in raising this money.
But there are some of them who say, ‘The taxes themselves are unjust, unfair, unequal, oppressive notably so the land taxes’. They are engaged, not merely in the House of Commons, but outside the House of Commons, in assailing these taxes with a concentrated and sustained ferocity which will not allow even a comma to escape with its life. Now, are these taxes really so wicked? Let us examine them…
…Let us take first of all the tax on undeveloped land and on increment.
Not far from here, not so many years ago, between the Lea and the Thames you had hundreds of acres of land which was not very useful even for agricultural purposes. In the main it was a sodden marsh. The commerce and the trade of London increased under Free Trade, the tonnage of your shipping went up by hundreds of thousands of tons and by millions; labour was attracted from all parts of the country to cope with all this trade and business which was done here. What happened? There was no housing accommodation. This Port of London became overcrowded, and the population overflowed. That was the opportunity of the owners of the marsh. All that land became valuable building land, and land which used to be rented at £2 or £3 an acre has been selling within the last few years at £2,000 an acre, £3,000 an acre, £6,000 an acre, £8,000 an acre. Who created that increment? Who made that golden swamp? Was it the landlord? Was it his energy? Was it his brains – a very bad look out for the place if it were – his forethought? It was purely the combined efforts of all the people engaged in the trade and commerce of the Port of London – trader, merchant, shipowner, dock labourer, workman, everybody except the landlord. Now, you follow that transaction. Land worth £2 or £3 an acre running up to thousands. ( To be Cont’d)