HC Deb 20 July 1831 vol 5 cc79-82
Mr. Tyrrell

presented a Petition from the Owners and Occupiers of land in Bungay, and another place in Suffolk, against the use of Molasses in Breweries and Distilleries.

Sir Henry Bunbury

said, this subject had excited great alarm among the agriculturists. They feared that, by allowing molasses to be used in the way proposed, great injury would be done to them, particularly at present, when the maltsters were called upon to pay large duties.

Mr. Briscoe

understood the effect of the plan which had been proposed would be, that the use of molasses would not take place till barley had risen to such a price as to make it advantageous to import it. The consequence would be, that, instead of importing foreign barley, the distillers would use molasses. The regulation was intended, therefore, to give an advantage to our own colonist instead of the foreign agriculturist.

Sir Edward Kerrison

was decidedly of opinion, that the proposed use of molasses in breweries and distilleries would prove ruinous to the agricultural interests.

Mr. Fyshe Palmer

thought the proposition which had been submitted to the House particularly ill-timed, as they had in a great degree just got rid of the use of molasses and drugs for making beer, by the operation of the late Act. The people had now a comparatively wholesome beverage, but if the use of molasses was permitted, the trade would again fall into the hands of the drug manufacturers. A more injurious measure could not have been proposed, and he trusted the Committee and the House would reject it.

An Hon. Member

thought the alarm of the agriculturists was without foundation, it was proposed only to allow the molasses to be used when barley was at 34s. per quarter, and when that was the case, foreign barley could be imported at a reduced duty. The proposition was recommended by being brought forward when the consumption of barley was much increased by the recent extension of the beertrade.

Sir John Newport

trusted the Committee to which the question was referred, would look with extreme jealousy at the proposed attempt to introduce molasses into the manufactures of spirits and beer. He could affirm, that spirits produced from that article in the country with which he was acquainted, had been of so bad a quality that it was not drinkable, and the consequence was, that illicit distillation of whiskey increased to such a degree, that it required great exertions on the part of Government for several years to stop it: and he was afraid, that this would be the result of the present attempt again to allow the use of molasses.

Mr. Irving

thought the remarks of the right hon. Baronet premature, when a Committee was sitting to investigate the whole business.

Sir John Newport

did not wish to prejudge the question, but he considered it, necessary to recommend the House to look seriously at it, in a point of view which might not be entered upon by the Committee.

Mr. Irving

knew that particular point to be under the consideration of the Committee.

Mr. John Wood

could declare, as a member of the Committee, that it was pursuing its inquiries in a diligent and impartial manner. The agriculturists had no reason to fear, that their interests would not be attended to, as several of the most active Members of the Committee represented the landed interest. One fact which had come under the notice of the Committee would shew that the prevailing alarm was unfounded. Evidence had been given, that, 5,000,000 quarters of malt paid duty annually; the quantity of molasses imported last year was 350,000 cwt, the quantity of saccharine matter in which would equal that contained in 220,000 quarters of malt; if that quantity was altogether deducted from the consumption of 5,000,000 quarters, it would not supply any good reason for alarm on the part of the agriculturists. Molasses was not to be used, however, until barley was 1l. 14s. per quarter, when foreign barley would be admitted. The consequence would be, that molasses, the produce of our colonies would be brought in competition with foreign barley and not with the produce of our own soil. He did not presume to anticipate the decision of the Committee, in which all the interests concerned were fully represented, but only wished to claim for it the confidence of the House.

Sir Robert Harty

said, great alarm prevailed that the proposition would produce material injury to the agricultural interests if carried into execution, and he, therefore, hoped, the Committee would soon relieve the anxiety of the country, by closing its labours.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, the present discussion in anticipation of an inquiry, the result of which would neither bind the House nor the public to adopt the conclusions of the Committee, could tend only to perplex the whole matter. If molasses was allowed to be used under the existing law, and the landed interest wished to inquire if the system could not be altered to the general advantage, would it not be unfair to refuse the inquiry? The principle was exactly the same, though the case was reversed. The West-Indian interest was labouring under severe depression, and it was but fair to allow it to endeavour to make out their case, without attempting to prejudice the inquiry. When the report of the Committee was presented, the House would be in a situation to enter into the whole merits of the question.

Sir John Sebright

said, the alarm felt in the agricultural county which he represented, and which was the chief seat of the malting trade, on account of the proposed use of molasses was very great, and he hoped the plan would be abandoned.

Mr. Sadler

said, they had heard of the landed interest and the commercial interest, in the brief discussion which had taken place, but nothing had been said, during the discussion, of a third interest—the most important of all—that of the community. It might be worth while to consider, whether it would be as agreeable to the people, if their beer was made from treacle, instead of malt and hops. This was the point of view in which the question should be considered, and it would not conciliate the public feeling to have treacle used in breweries. A wholesome beverage might be made from that article, but the people of England did not like it.

An Hon. Member

said, the agitation of the question had created so much alarm, that malt was perfectly unsaleable at the present moment. It was asserted, that only 500,000 cwt. of molasses could be imported; but would not the worst description of sugars also find their way into the breweries and distilleries? Whatever quantity of either might be used must displace an equal quantity of home produce.

Mr. Bernal

said, it was for the interest of all parties, that no further irritation should be excited by incidental discussions, tending to prejudge a question at present before a Committee for consideration. The report of the Committee would be in a short time before the House, and it was not a candid mode of proceeding to send abroad reports injurious to all parties interested.

Petition laid on the Table.

Mr. Tyrrell

presented similar petitions from Halesworth and Harleston.

Sir John Sebright

said, if the measure was proceeded with, every parish of Hertfordshire would petition against it.

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