§ Lord H. Petty
moved the order of the day for the house to resolve into a committee of ways and means. The noble lord then rose, for the purpose of bringing forward the tax he meant to propose in lieu of the duty which had been abandoned on Pig-Iron. He said it would be in the recollection of the house, that not many days since he had proposed to defer the further proceedings in the committee of ways and means, for the purpose of devising some tax less objectionable to the house, and to the great body of the country, than that upon Pig-Iron, which he had been induced, in compliance with the prevailing sentiment, to decline. He now, therefore, rose to propose, in lieu of that tax, a substitute, which he hoped would prove more acceptable. He considered it properly ma substitute, because it would fall principally upon one article, and one to which he thought the least objection was likely to arise, in providing for the pressing exigencies of the country. Notwithstanding the popular error, that the luxuries of the wealthy were the fittest objects of taxation under such exigency, yet it was a fact incontrovertible, that the produce of taxes upon such luxuries would be so very small, as to prove rather harassing than lucrative, and therefore it became his duty to look to one more connected with general consumption, and, of course, more likely to be efficient. On giving an attentive consideration to those objects, which promised to be productive, .and were likely to fall the lightest upon those who were to be immediately subject to the impost, he considered Private brewing as one of the fairest that presented themselves for adoption. The private brewer, notwithstanding that he paid the duty on malt, had still considerable advantage over the public brewer, and all the consumers of the liquor he produced. Private brewing was carried on to such an extent, and produced so great a saving to the individuals who adopted it, for the supply of their families, that it greatly lessened the consumption of ether beverage, the duties on which would add considerably to the public revenue; he therefore conceived the country, under its present circumstances, had a right to 256 look to the private brewer as a fair subject of taxation, and to bear his part in the public burthens: but at the same time, the tax he proposed to lay would be so moderate as still to leave the object of it in possession of considerable advantages over the public brewer. With regard to the produce to be computed from this tax, it was difficult to obtain any precise data upon which to calculate with exactness but taking the best be could find, namely, the whole quantity of malt charged with the malt duties, and deducting from that the quantity which appeared from an average of returns to be consumed by the common brewer and distiller, the remainder would afford a tolerable criterion of what the private brewers consumed. The whole quantity of malt, then, charged with the duties upon an average of the last few years, was about three millions of quarters annually, of which it appeared that the public brewers did not consume more than two millions: of the remaining million it was extremely difficult to ascertain what proportion was consumed by the distilleries. It appeared, however, from enquiries made during the last scarcity, that the average consumption of the distillers was about 250,000 quarters; so that the remaining 750,000 quarters appeared to be the consumption of the private brewer, which, rated in the scale he was about to propose, would produce about 500.,000l., a sum adequate to that at which he had estimated the tax upon pig-iron. The scale of taxation was estimated from the most reasonable calculation upon the probable consumption of each family, and their respective rank and abilities in life; but, undoubtedly, as it was the farthest wish from his mind to expose the private brewer to any obtrusion of the excise officer into his family, he would shape the tax in such a way as to enable every man, by paying a fair and reasonable commutation, to avoid a necessity so obnoxious. The tax would be assessed upon a scale of proportion with the other assessed taxes: upon the higher orders according to the number of carriages and servants; and upon the lower in proportion to their rank in life, and the number of individuals who composed their families, upon the following scale, viz. 1. Every family paying the duty on a four-wheeled carriage, and one male servant, to pay a commutation for every male in such family, 1l. 1s. 2l. For every female, 10s. 6d. 3. Families, not paying for a four-wheeled carriage, but assessed 257 for one male servant, to pay for each male, 15s.; every female, 7s. 6d. 3. Families not assessed for a male servant, but paying the assessed taxes; for every male, 10s.; every female, 5s. 4. Persons only paying the lowest order of assessed taxes, and charged with the window tax; males, 5s.; females, 2s. 6d.; all children under ten years old excepted, and also all the lower orders of the labouring poor, and all persons not paying assessed taxes, and who may choose to brew for themselves, to be exempt; for no person but the private brewer would have any part of the charge to bear. The whole produce he estimated to amount to a net revenue of 500,000l. Having thus briefly stated the tax he had to propose, he begged leave to observe, that, as nothing was more repugnant to his wish, than that it should become necessary to collect the tax in the way of excise, he hoped that all persons who were averse to the exciseman's visits, would avail themselves of the modification he proposed, and by delivering in their lists, according to the foregoing scale, enable the collector to ascertain their respective. proportions without farther, trouble to themselves. He begged leave to repeat than notwithstanding. what might be considered a fair impost upon the private brewer, he would still have many advantages over the public one, and possess a great degree of comfort in the means of supplying his family with a wholesome and cheering beverage, considerably cheaper than he could purchase of the public brewer or retailer. The noble lord felt still more happy that the class of labouring poor would be altogether exempt from the tax; and concluded by moving, that there be laid upon every barrel of ale or strong beer brewed by private families, above the value of 16s., an excise duty of 10s. to be paid by the person so brewing, except such person as should pay a commutation licence-duty upon the scale before-mentioned.
said, he did not rise to make any opposition to this tax, which originated in the suggestion of his right hon. friend, now no more, (Mr. Pitt,) who, however, intended to make an exemption in favour of farmers, who were in general under the necessity of brewing a considerable quantity of beer, in harvest time only. He wished to know if any such exemption was now in contemplation?
§ Sir R. Buxton
objected to the principle 258 of the tax, as, if the precedent was adopted of obliging people to take out a licence for brewing, it might afterwards be extended to baking, boiling, and roasting. It would be a hardship on the landed interest, as country gentlemen were under the necessity of brewing their own beer, being out of the reach of the common brewer. The effect of the tax would be, to bid adieu to old English hospitality in the country. It was, in fact, another malt tax.
§ Sir W. Geary
was in favour of the composition, for the sake of keeping the exciseman out of private houses.
said, that as those made a return with the assessed taxes, would not be subjected to the excise, this would be a powerful inducement to them to come forward and compound in the first instance.
§ Mr. Huskisson
wished to know what deduction had been allowed in the calculation for those who paid no assessed taxes, and therefore were not liable to this tax? He adverted to the cases of persons who resided a great part of the year in town, and were supplied by the public brewer, but, after returning to the country, were obliged to brew their own beer. As the master now stood, these must, in many instances, pay at the highest rate of composition for the whole year, or be subject to the excise.
§ Mr. Patteson
could not believe that the hon. baronet was in earnest when he spoke of the hardship which this tax would bring on the lauded gentlemen. In the present state of the country, it was not to be expected that they should be allowed to have their beer at a rate so much lower than that of the labourer, who was forced to apply to the public brewer, and at present paid one penny a quart more than they did. There ought not to be such an inequality between the rich and the poor, in our present circumstances. This was not a new thing, for there was a tax of much the same nature in the time of lord North, when a deduction was allowed to the public brewer; so that this was only a new application of an old principle. As to the difficulties attending the collection of the tax, they might be done away. It might be laid on the malt, and then every one might do as he pleased; but, as to the ex- 259 cise, it was, he knew, attended with no inconvenience on the public breweries, where all was fair and open. He highly approved of the tax, and would give every assistance in his power in its preparation and execution.
§ Lord H. Petty
said he had already stated the difficulty of finding correct data in this case. He had taken the duty on malt, however; and as to the beer brewed by the cottagers, it would be so weak that a great quantity of malt need not be here calculated upon. He thought there could be no harm in allowing the option, as the mode of the assessed taxes would naturally be preferred. But, in a few instances, the excise would be an accommodation, such as in the cases of those who resided but a short time in the country, and might not, therefore, choose to compound. As to the suggestion of the hon. baronet respecting some domestic comforts, we were already come to a state when that ought to be no ground of objection. What were all the assessed taxes, but interferences with domestic comforts? What were the taxes on servants? And even as far buck as the reign of George II., a tax was imposed for the privilege of making candles by private families for their own use. Those who compounded might make any use of their licence which they pleased, without any farther trouble.
§ Mr. Huskisson
thought the noble lord had calculated the product of the tax greatly beyond its reality; for, even admitting his own scale of the consumption of malt by the breweries and distilleries to be correct, still, of the remaining 750,000 quarters, a very great proportion must be consumed by poor families, whom it was the avowed purpose of the noble lord to exempt from the tax altogether.
still thought that the excise ought to be avoided. He objected, however, to have the tax laid on the malt, and stated that frauds might be committed by persons brewing in one year, what might serve them for two or three.
§ Dr. Laurence
reprobated the disposition manifested by the right hon. gent. (Mr. Rose), and those who supported him, for 260 the conduct they uniformly manifested towards the noble lord and his colleagues, to whom they had boasted of having resigned "a bed of roses;" but to whom, in fact, they had left nothing but embarrassment and almost insurmountable difficulty. Every measure which the present ministers proposed for extricating the country from its difficulties, met with nothing but captious objections, and vexatious opposition, from their predecessors. As to the proposition now before the house, he hoped the noble lord would see it better to limit it entirely to a licence, than to put it at all under the excise. One objection he had to the bill, in so far as it was a tax on the apparent wealth of the person consuming, and not on the consumption of the article.
said, he did not think he deserved the rebuke of the learned doctor, who had, in fact, found more fault with the new duty than he did. He accused the present minister of making up a great part of his budget from the objectionable taxes which his predecessor rejected, having many more eligible taxes in reserve.
§ Dr. Laurence
said, he only alluded to what had fallen from the hon. gent, on the present occasion, as affording a specimen of the pleasantness of that "bed of roses," to which his right hon. friends had succeeded, and that the duty they had to go through was perfectly easy!
§ Mr. Giles
remarked, that the duty might easily be collected under the assessed taxes, without at all coming under the excise. An hon. bart. (sir R. Buxton) had said the tax would fall peculiarly heavy on the country gentlemen. If so, they had, for many years, had an advantage over the persons residing in great towns, and this would only be restoring things to their proper balance. He hoped, too, the noble lord would turn his attention to the cyder counties, and not allow them to escape. He thought the tax, in effect, would operate as a tax on female servants; but since a tax on the home made beverage of private families was to be laid, he thought the inhabitants of the cyder counties, who substituted that beverage, almost totally to the exclusion of malt-liquor, should be subjected to a licence also.
§ Mr. Huskisson
thought the advantage of the private over the common brewer, to be over-rated, as the latter went more cheaply to work, on account of superior machinery.
§ Lord H. Petty
said, that as to the sug- 261 gestion regarding cyder, he assured the house he did not refrain from a tax on that article from any peculiar favour to the cyder counties. On the contrary, he saw no objection to a small duty on it by way of licence. He agreed in the hardship which it might be to make those farmers who only brewed in time of harvest, take out a licence to the same amount as if they brewed their beer all the year round. This might be remedied by limiting the sum so to be paid by them to a composition during the autumn months.
§ Sir C. Pole
objected to the tax on the cyder counties, and also to that sort of criterion of gentlemen's circumstances that was to be drawn from their keeping a carriage, which, to many men of small incomes, was frequently more a matter of mere convenience than of luxury. He considered this to be a tax on female servants. He suggested, as a better succedaneum of revenue than the beverage of poor families, the race of strapping six-feet men-milliners, who crowded the shops of the metropolis.
§ Lord H. Petty
replied, that females were no more taxed by this measure, than for the beer they drank; and if it was any pleasure to him, the hon. bart. might be assured. that the strapping six-feet men-milliners were as much subject to this tax as any other persons.
§ Mr. S. Stanhope
saw no reason why cyder should escape. He hoped, however, that the malt which grew in Scotland, a part of the country which was increasing in prosperity more than any other, would undergo a more regular rate of taxation. He maintained, that from the hospitality shewn in the country more than prevailed in London, the tax would operate with double severity on those who resided there. In one instance, however, be hoped it would be attended with good consequences —in repressing contested elections.
§ Lord H. Petty
replied, that if the hon. gent. was disposed to be so very hospitable, he had only to take out the licence, and then be might be as hospitable as he pleased.
§ Mr. T. Jones
thought the tax would, to all intents and purposes, be a tax on female servants, to which he was decidedly averse; better, infinitely, to tax those worthless animals, called men-milliners, to whom the hon. bart. had so properly alluded.
§ Lord H. Petty
replied, that this was no more to be called a tax on female servants, than a tax on gloves would be.
§ Mr. Manning
said, that, fond as he was of home-made beer, sooner than be subject to the excise, he would give tip his brewery. He should prefer, instead of the option, to have a direct licence, in the same manner as for killing game.
Mr. W. Smith
supported the measure, observing, that this was not a compulsory introduction of the excise, and if a man preferred it, he had no hardship to complain of. He also wished the tax not to be upon the malt in the first intance, as that would exempt the poor from the operation of it.
§ Mr. Fuller
approved of the tax, which, he said he had himself suggested to the treasury last year. He preferred a licence, without an alternative, and thought the cyder counties should pay their proportion to the duty.
§ Mr. Sheridan
said, he had not the slightest objection to the tax proposed by the noble lord, so far as it affected himself, and should cheerfully submit to it—[a laugh]. But he would not go quite so far on the behalf of his constituents at Stafford, many of whom were poor, but honest, industrious men, who were in the habit of brewing a little ale for their own families: they certainly brewed a very good sort, and he must do them the justice to say, that they did ample justice to their own brewing. He therefore could have wished the noble lord had commenced his scale of this tax a little higher in society. With respect to what had been said of females who might be affected by this tax, he heartily concurred in opinion with those gentlemen who had spoken on the subject. He would go even farther, and recommend, that not only men milliners, but all men who held situations in shops, which females could occupy, should be taxed. He then adverted to what had been stated by a right hon. gent. (Mr. Rose), that the budget was made up of the rejected taxes of the late minister, whom he represented as having a number of faultless and unobjectionable taxes in reserve, and thought it would shew a much greater zeal for the public service, if, instead of coming to the house with objections to every measure proposed, under exigencies, which they themselves had created, that right hon. gent. and his friends would disclose to the house, and his majesty's present servants, some of those unobjectionable and eligible taxes, which they so well knew the late minister to have in reserve.
wished, that the time for carrying the tax into effect, might be carried beyond the harvest time. He only threw this out for the consideration of the noble lord, knowing that it would be a very great Advantage to farmers, and, in fact, what they were entitled to.
§ Sir W. Geary
disapproved of the measure. He did not like the excise hanging over us in terrorem as to what we were doing in our private houses. Might not compositions be carried such a length as to make it a doubtful thing whether they or the exicse itself were preferable?
argued, that the principle of the measure had been recognised in the very best of times. During the reign of queen Anne, the making of malt for private use, was allowed to be compounded; and during the reign of George II. a similar rule was allowed as to candles. These were now done away, but the principle was the same as that now proposed.—The different resolutions were then put and agreed to, and the report ordered to be received to-morrow.