HC Deb 11 May 1815 vol 31 cc249-51

The House having resolved itself into a committee on the Irish Malt Duties Bill,

Sir John Newport

said, it had long been the anxious wish of the House to discourage the consumption of spirits in Ireland, and to introduce malt liquor, as a more wholesome beverage. This feeling was founded in a laudable desire to promote habits of morality and industry amongst the lower classes in that country. Now, he feared, that the increased malt duty, under this Bill, would have the effect of bringing the Irish population back to the use of spirits. The right hon. gentleman, he was aware, had laid an additional tax on the distilleries, proportioned to the augmentation of the duty on the brewery; but this was likely materially to encourage the practice of illicit distillation.

Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald

said, the difficulties of the sister country were such, that it was impossible to adopt any measure that would be entirely effectual, or to which some objection could not be offered. He entirely concurred with the right hon. baronet in the desirableness of introducing malt liquor, instead of spirits. But, from the manners and habits of a great part of the population of that country—habits growing out of their peculiar occupation, vast numbers of them being employed in agriculture, and necessarily scattered over a large extent of country—it was impossible always to supply them with malt liquor. To counteract the effect of the additional duty on malt, an increased tax had been laid on the distillery. This the right hon. baronet seemed to think would induce an extension of illicit distillation. The laws, however, to prevent that evil were put in force with the most unrelaxed activity. And when it was found that government were determined to follow up those measures, which, however severe in the beginning, were, in the end, the most merciful, he hoped the good sense and hottest feeling of the country, would operate to remove the evil of illicit distillation.

Mr. W. Smith

denied the justice of the right hon. gentleman's observation, when he said, that it was impossible, because the population of Ireland was much scattered, to introduce malt liquor amongst them. The very contrary of his inference was the fact. Where great numbers of persons met together, in cities, far more spirits were consumed, than the same number would make use of, if they were scattered through the country. One hundred thousand people spread over the country, and engaged in agricultural pursuits, would not consume one-tenth part of the spirits, in a given time, that would be drunk by the like number of persons in London or Manchester.

Sir J. Newport

pointed out the necessity of establishing large breweries in those districts where illicit distillation was known to be most prevalent.

Mr. W. Smith

observed, that the general consumption of malt liquor in this country did not originate in the formation, of large breweries, but was effected by the small farmers, who brewed their own beer.

Mr. V. Fitzgerald

said, the small farmers in Ireland had it not in their power to brew their own beer; they were really incapable. He was friendly to the establishment of breweries in that country, which was proved by his having preferred a tax on malt, to a direct beer duty, which would be more likely to pre- vent the growth of breweries. Whatever measure Parliament thought fit to adopt, to give encouragement to the establishment of breweries, should receive his support.

The House then resumed, and the Report was ordered to be received tomorrow.