HC Deb 11 December 1812 vol 24 cc275-8

On the order of the day for the second reading of this Bill,

Mr. W. Dundas

rose on the part of the maltsters of Scotland, from whom he had received such a representation as urged him, from a strong sense of duty, to call the attention of the House to this subject. It appeared to him, indeed, that if the limitation fixed in the measure before the House were insisted upon, there would be no malting in Scotland, and of course there would be no duty. According to the act of last year, the time allowed for steeping barley was settled at 55 hours; but this being found quite insufficient for the maltsters of Yorkshire and the northern counties, this Bill was introduced to correct that mistake, and to extend the time to 65 hours, because from the comparative inferiority of the barley in these districts, such extension was found absolutely necessary. Now what he had to require on the part of his countrymen was, that as they were still more northerly, and their barley still inferior from the inferiority of the soil, a still farther extension might be granted to them. The reason assigned for this limitation of the time in steeping barley, was avowedly to prevent frauds upon the revenue; but as no such frauds could be charged on the Scotch maltsters, by whom none such had been committed, the excise of last year having been unusually productive, amounting indeed to 130,000l that reason could not be pressed against them. For them, therefore, he felt himself justified in urging a claim of extension to 75 hours, which extension they deemed indispensibly necessary to carry on their trade. He was sorry to find that this appeal and that of his friends in Scotland, to his friend (Mr. Wharton,) had been found totally unavailing. Yet when the Scotch maltsters laid their case before the commissioners of excise in Scotland, between whom and them there was, as in such relations generally, a natural antipathy, the commissioners were so struck by the grievance to which the maltsters were subjected, that they allowed an extension of the time for steeping malt, to 80 hours. This allowance was made in October, 1812; but upon reference to his hon. friend, the boon was ordered to be revoked. All he asked then, if it was not wished to extinguish the Scotch maltsters, and so to injure both agriculture and the revenue, was, that the very peculiar circumstances in which the Scotch maltsters were placed should be reconsidered—at all events, that provision should be made in the Bill, investing the commissioners of the excise in Scotland, or the commissioners of the treasury in England, with a discretionary power to grant the extension of time required by the Scotch maltsters if they should succeed in making out a case worthy of such extension.

Mr. Lascelles,

on the part of the maltsters of Yorkshire, protested against any disposition to commit fraud, in requiring the extension of time proposed to be granted by this Bill; these maltsters having, indeed, themselves suggested a penalty upon fraud, the infliction of which must nearly produce the ruin of the guilty. He was glad, therefore, that the application of his constituents had been attended to; but if the object of that application should not, upon trial, be found fully answered by the provisions of the Bill, he should, seeing a clause in the Bill, allowing its repeal or amendment in the course of the session, feel himself competent to apply for a futher extension of time for the steeping of malt in Yorkshire.

Mr. Wharton

felt confident, that the ob- servations of his right hon. friend were totally founded in mistake; and if he could shew that the premises were incorrect, the House would know how to appreciate his conclusions. His right hon. friend had asserted the inferiority of the barley used by maltsters in Scotland, whereas, in point of fact, that barley was generally of the very finest quality. The grain alluded to by his right hon. friend, and upon which he appeared to have received some information, was not barley, but big; and even that grain, growing upon land generally let at from 8 to 10l. an acre, could not be set down as so inferior, or the growth of land so poor in quality, as his right hon. friend had stated, But his right hon. friend had been generally misinformed upon this subject, although referring to his native country. There was no doubt, a great deal of poor land in Scotland, which, of course, would grow poor grain. But it was notorious, that the greater part of the barley used by the Scotch maltsters, was of the very best quality, being the growth of Norfolk. This Norfolk barley was, in fact, bought cheaper in Edinburgh, than in London; and if then the proposition of his right hon. friend, or rather the petition of the Scotch maltsters, which applied for an extension of 100 hours, were acceded, the consequence would be, that such barley might be steeped twice within the time required. Thus, indeed, the revenue might be completely defrauded. But, according to the assertion of his right hon. friend, the Scotch maltsters were incapable of fraud—according to him, truly, they never had any such disposition—there were no frauds upon the revenue in Scotland, whatever might occur elsewhere. What, however, was the fact? why, that in the year 1809, which was the last to which he had referred, the convictions for fraud upon the excise amounted in England to but 1321, while in Scotland they exceeded 4500 (a general laugh.) Then as to 100 hours, applied for by the Scotch petitioners, he undertook to assert, that no barley in nature could require such a period," and that.65 hours, which the Bill proposed to grant, were" amply sufficient for every purpose of saturation. If, however, the contrary should be the case, and a farther extension of time should be found necessary, the Bill was so modelled as to leave room for speedy amendment, which amendment he should be as ready to support as any man; being at all times ready rather to release some part of the system necessary to check frauds, than to wish any injury or undue inconvenience to the fair trade.

Mr. Dundas

asked, whether the convictions for fraud upon the excise in Scotland adverted to by his hon. friend, did not relate to the manufacture of whisky, and not to malting?

Mr. Wharton

answered in the negative.

The Bill was then read a second time.