HC Deb 04 May 1824 vol 11 cc448-50
Lord A. Hamilton

presented a petition from Lanark, praying that Scotch Spirits might be imported into England on the same footing as Irish Spirits. The noble lord observed, that the chancellor of the Exchequer had last year held out an expectation, that he would, in the course of the present session, introduce a measure for the purpose of remedying the injustice of the present law. He was very desirous of knowing what the right hon. gentleman intended to do.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

replied, that it was perfectly true that, in the course of the discussions last year on this subject, he had given the distillers of Scotland, and the House, reason to believe that it was his intention in the present session to propose some definitive measure respecting it. It was not without great regret that he found himself unable to do so. But he could assure the House, that this omission did not arise in the slightest degree from any denial on his part of the allegations in the petition, or from any doubt of the injustice and unreasonableness of the law in its present state. He was quite as satisfied as the noble lord, that the law could not remain in its present inconsistent condition. It was unquestionably unjust that Irish spirits should be admitted into this country on certain terms, while Scotch spirits were excluded; but, the House would do him the justice to recollect, that the measure by which this anomaly was established, was not introduced by him. He found the law as it now stood, and as it had long stood. But he repeated his regret, that he could not, with a view to the satisfaction of the interests particularly concerned, and of those of the country at large, propose a definitive measure on this subject in the present session. It would be most unwise to do any thing prematurely with respect to it. The measure which he had last year introduced was partial; and he had introduced it only because the evil was one of so crying a nature as to require immediate remedy. As far as it went it had been successful: but it tended to produce an evil in an opposite direction. It was his most anxious desire to bring forward a bill, that should be completely and permanently satisfactory. All that he asked was, not to be forced into a premature and undigested measure, which would merely throw matters into a state worse than that in which they were at present.

Mr. Hutchinson

protested against the violation of the act of Union on this subject. His countrymen insisted on their right of bringing in every article, the produce of Ireland, to the English market, there to be saleable, without its undergoing any process whatever in this country. The raw spirit of England was deleterious; but the raw spirit of Ireland was excellent. It was drunk by the highest and by the lowest of the people of that country. It was a spirit which they had been drinking for centuries, and which they hoped to continue drinking for centuries to come [a laugh]. It was absurd, therefore, for the late chancellor of the Exchequer to adopt the measures respecting it which he had done. He fully agreed in the prayer of the petition, and he trusted the right hon. gentleman would bring forward some proposition which would remove the existing grievance.

Ordered to lie on the table.