HC Deb 30 July 1834 vol 25 cc774-5

The House went into Committee on the Excise Acts.

On the Resolution being put for reducing the duty on Irish spirits,

Sir George Murray

said, there was a departure here from the principle of equality of taxation on which the noble Lord professed to act. The noble Lord (Lord Althorp) seemed to think, that the quantity of spirits distilled was always the same, and that any difference in the amount of duty paid arose from illicit distillation. He did not know what means the noble Lord had to ascertain this. The injury done to Scotland by the change proposed by the noble Lord would not be confined to the highlands, but extend over all Scotland; and he did not think it fair to that part of the empire. The noble Lord assigned as a reason, that he could not risk more than 200,000l. revenue. Why not then make the risk equal, by doing away with duty in both countries? He would not divide the Committee upon the point; but he should not have done his duty, not having been in the House when the Resolutions were first proposed, if he had not called the attention of the noble Lord to the subject.

Lord Althorp

said, this alteration was proposed partly on the ground, that it would be a benefit to Scotland. In Ireland the duty was higher than in Scotland; and he did not think, therefore, it would be justifiable to adopt the course proposed by the gallant officer. A reduction of duty in Ireland to the amount of 1s. would have no effect. Illicit distillation was now going on there very briskly, and so small a reduction would not impede it much. The reduction would not cause more smuggling from Ireland than at present existed. If he saw that there was an advantage gained from the reduction of the duty on spirits, he might take off the drawback on malt in Scotland. The question, however, was one that could not be taken into consideration before next Session.

Captain Gordon

said, that if the noble Lord did not take off the drawback on malt, after this reduction of duty had been made on Irish whiskey, the consequence would be ruinous to the distillers of Scotland.

Mr. Sinclair

thought that there was very little prospect of seeing his Majesty's Ministers experience a second defeat on the same night, and he, therefore, agreed with the right hon. Member, that it was unnecessary to press this question to a division. One result of the change effected a short time ago in the Irish Tithe Bill would be, as he hoped, to shorten the duration of the Session, and prevent the Table from being covered with petitions from Scotland against the advantage about to be given to Ireland over that country. The Irish Members had at least two advantages over the Scotch: in the first place, their numerical superiority, and then their greater skill in wielding the weapons of agitation. The latter was the chief source by which they accomplished many objects, and certainly the people of Scotland, if they wished to avert an evil, or secure an advantage, should take a leaf out of Lord Anglesey's book, and agitate, agitate, agitate. He should now content himself with protesting against the partial and unjust measure which was under consideration.

Mr. Callaghan

said, that if Government had given the same encouragement to the landlords of Ireland that had been given to the Scotch landlords, the Irish would have conducted themselves in the same way.

Mr. Ruthven

said, that if the large Irish distilleries were well managed by proper men, and by good Excise-laws, it would contribute more to suppress illicit distilleries than any oppressive enactment.

Mr. Ewing

said, that the noble Lord would not have made this reduction if he was aware of the demoralization it would produce among the lower classes in Ireland.

The Resolutions were agreed to, and a Bill founded thereon ordered to be brought in.