HC Deb 08 July 1823 vol 9 cc1458-61
Mr. W. Smith,

understanding that it was the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to add, upon the third reading of this bill, a clause relative to the Scotch distillers, begged to inform him that he had a petition against that clause from the English distillers, who prayed to be heard at the bar by their counsel.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he was aware of the regulations and the clause to which the hon. member alluded. The object of the present hill was solely to establish the uniformity of practice in Ireland and Scotland, with respect to the regulations and collection of the duty. It would have been desirable to assimilate, as much as possible, that practice to the English; but although the committee had made some suggestions on the subject, the report had not been received, until it was too late to adopt them. By the present law, a Scotch distiller wishing to avail himself of the advantage of the English market, was obliged to give twelve months' notice; during the whole of which period his still must be idle. Now, he could not admit the justice of this law with respect to the Scotch distiller; but as it was clear that the interest of the English distillers would be materially affected by the clause which he had intended to propose, he did not see how the House could refuse to hear them by counsel if they wished. He saw, however, that this would delay the bill so long, that it might endanger its passing in the present session, and rather than encounter that risk he would withdraw the clause.

Lord A. Hamilton,

although he was bound to admire the right hon. gentleman's candour, could not approve of his determination to withdraw the clause.

Mr. R. Douglas

supported the introduction of the clause.

Tne Chancellor of the Exchequer,

in withdrawing the clause referred to, pledged himself that, next session, he would submit tot he House a measure to regulate the intercourse in spirits between the three kingdoms, upon a more equitable and intelligible principle than that now existing.

Mr. Hutchinson,

in delivering his sentiments the bill before the house, took the opportunity of alluding to a petition when had been presented on the part of the Irish brewers, in which they stated, that it had always been the anxious desire of the Irish parliament to encourage the consumption of malt liquor; and entered into a detail, to prove the propriety of encouraging that manufacture, and the injurious consequences of any measure tending to check it. Now, if the right hon. gentleman persisted in the present bill, it was but fair to give the Irish brewers some protection. The bill, as it respected Ireland, introduced two very important alterations; one was, the reduction of the duty; the other, the permission to work small stills. In his opinion, the reduction of the duty was a measure of a very doubtful character; and, as to the permission to make use of small stills, it was, with reference to Ireland, a perfectly revolutionary measure. Heretofore, the principle acted on was, to encourage large stills, and the consequent employment of extensive capital. Now, however, it was proposed to put small stills in competition with the large ones; and the probability would be, that, in proportion as the small stills were brought into action, those of a larger description would be injured, and persons who had vested their fortunes in property of that description would suffer severly. The right hon. gentleman had given nonce, that he would, in the ensuing summery give his most serious attention to the whole of the distillery system, for the purpose of simplifying it; and an hon. member had declared, that the British distillers were anxious for an investigation of the subject. He knew not what was intended to be done; the whole system as disclosed in the bill now before the House, was completely new, and would compel the Irish distiller to learn his trade all over again. It would be better, at that late period of the session, to let the bill lie over, and during the recess to consider maturely the distillery regulations, and the whole question of commercial intercourse between England, Ireland, and Scotland. For so long this question of intercourse between the three countries remained undecided, the Irish distiller could not possibly know on what footing he stood, and what preparations he ought to make to go into the British market. The act of Union had been grossly violated with respect to the intercourse of spirits between the two countries. By a clause in that act, the Irish distiller had a right to send his spirits, as manufactured in Ireland, to this country. But this was prevented by a new regulation. No sooner was the Irish spirit sent over, than it was discovered to be a most dangerous spirit, either too strong or too weak. Therefore, it was provided, that the spirit should go through the hands of a rectifier, and it ultimately resembled any thing rather than what it was when it left the Irish coast.

Colonel Trench

said, the measure now under consideration was not founded on the principle of balancing the interests of Scotland against those of Ireland. For the first time, the whole question had been put on a proper and fair footing by the right hon. gentleman. He was convinced that, if the licensing of small stills was pushed still further, the result would be most beneficial. The army would not be demoralized, as they now were, in consequence of their being continually employed in what was called, "still-hunting."

The bill was then read the third time;

Mr. Herries

stated, that there were several clauses about to be brought which would be added as riders to the bill.

Mr. S. Rise

thought the whole proceeding of the gentlemen opposite was open to much objection. The measure now before the House would lead to collision of interests. It was a bill of detail; and yet there were not three members of that House who had had ah opportunity of knowing whether it was just or unjust. After excuses from gentlemen opposite, for the lateness of the period at which it was brought forward, and complaints from those who were interested in it, on the same account, they were now asked to decide, in a moment, on the mass of clauses that were now about to be proposed. This, to say the least of it was a very clumsy mode, of legislating. He deprecated the custom which, had so long prevailed, of having a separate system, with respect to the spirit trade, for England, Ireland, and Scotland. It established adverse interests; and the consequence was, that those who were near the head-quarters of authority—he meant the English distillers—obtained advantages over the distillers who resided in other parts of the empire. He hoped that one system would be adopted for the whole country.

Mr. Wallace

said, the opposition which the hon. member threatened to the new clauses was but an indifferent reward for the anxiety which government had manifested to meet the wishes of all parties. The question had been discussed with those who were most affected by the bill, and there was not a clause which was not founded on the suggestion of the parties themselves. To the landed gentlemen of Ireland and of Scotland, government looked for the success of this measure: and if they afforded it support, he believed the bill would accomplish all the objects which those who framed it promised to themselves.

Several clauses proposed by Mr. Herries and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were then assented to. After which, the bill was passed.