HC Deb 30 March 1840 vol 53 cc248-50

The House again in Committee on the act regulating the excise duties on Tobacco and Glass.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that all parties connected with the different branches of the tobacco trade had, by memorial or by petition, applied to the Government for an alteration of the law with respect to the preparation of tobacco. According to the law it was allowable in the preparation of tobacco to mix up water and colouring matter; but while the parties apparently only used those ingredients, they, in fact, threw in a quantity of molasses, which tended to the adulteration of the article. With respect to this point the law was very defective and objectionable to the fair trader, inasmuch as it was ineffectual for the prevention of fraudulent practices by the unfair trader. The Excise-office had used every effort to carry the law into execution, but without effect. It became, therefore, necessary that the Legislature should take one or other of two courses—either that of making the law so stringent as to carry into effect what was the intention of the Legislature, or, on the other hand to adopt the course recommended by the commissioners of Excise inquiry; that of doing away with altogether the system of surveys. After the best consideration he could give to the subject, having called for the opinions of the Commissioners of Customs, and of the Chairman of the Commissioners of Excise, and also in consequence of the recommendation of the commission which had sat upon the Excise duties, it appeared to him, that the case stood thus—that they could not make the law effectual without carrying restrictions to such an extent as to interfere most injuriously with the trade. He felt justified, therefore, in adopting the recommendations of the Commissioners of Excise inquiry, and doing away with, those restrictions, which were of no service, except to give an advantage to the unfair over the fair trader. The course he proposed was open to some risks, he admitted, but he hoped the House would pass the resolution which he would propose, and allow him to bring in a bill, which he would read a second time and print, but not proceed further till after Easter, that those interested in the trade might have a full opportunity of considering it. The resolution was, that certain laws which regulated the Excise on the manufacture of tobacco should be repealed, and other regulations substituted for the same.

Mr. Hume

was satisfied, that this was a good step, but he wished it had gone further. It was because the duty was 1,000 or 1,200 per cent, on the value that smuggling took place; and he was convinced, that if the duty were reduced there would be more revenue.

Lord G. Somerset

disliked tobacco as much as any one could, but he would draw the especial attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the difficulties attending the removal of tobacco from one part of the country to the other.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

replied that some of the restrictions which he was about to remove were the very restrictions of which the noble Lord had heard complaints.— Resolution agreed to.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

next referred to the excise duties on glass. During the last year such improvements had been made in the manufacture of broad or smelt glass, that it was now as good as German or sheet glass, and yet it paid but half the duty. Last year his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) had introduced a bill with a view of defining what was broad glass, and of remedying the discrepancy between the duties, but the experiment had been found a complete failure; for, by a slight alteration, parties continued to manufacture at the lower duty glass quite equal to German sheet glass; and this opened the door to another fraud on the revenue, for there was a drawback on glass exported, and it was difficult to distinguish that which had paid the lower from that which had paid the higher duty. The only mode by which he could meet these difficulties was, to make a slight increase in the rate of duty paid for the broad glass, and he would, therefore, move, that the duty now payable on broad glass be rescinded, and the same duty be payable as on crown or German sheet glass; and that the laws regulating the excise on glass be altered accordingly.

Mr. Hume

said, that they ought not to raise the duty on that kind of glass which was most in use by the lower classes; they ought rather to reduce the higher rate of duty.

Mr. Filzstephen French

remarked, that if these duties were continued it was quite clear that the trade would be lost to this country. Already were we being driven out of the foreign market, and, as he was informed, the German trade had been entirely taken by the Americans.

Resolution agreed to.

House resumed—report to be received.