HC Deb 01 April 1845 vol 78 cc1360-3

Upon the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair, to go into Committee on the Excise Acts.

Mr. F. T. Baring

wished to call the attention of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the case made on the part of the retailers of foreign spirits and liqueurs. They had no power now to sell under the amount of two gallons. In the Report of the Excise Committee, it was recommended that the amount should be reduced, and in consequence of that re commendation he had introduced a Bill some years ago, which would allow the sale of one bottle of foreign spirits and liqueurs. That Bill had passed the House of Commons, but was lost in the House of Lords, for what reason he did not then recollect. He was afraid the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought this a small matter, but he could assure him it was no small matter when a considerable number of persons were in the habit of breaking the law. The habits of society were such, that consumers did not purchase to the amount of two gallons of these articles. It would be much more preferable that parties should be able to carry on their business in a legal manner, and not be subject to the attacks of informers; for at present they must either disoblige their customers or violate the law. He wished to know if any change was likely to be made in the present state of the law.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, it was not in his power to give a satisfactory answer to the right hon. Gentleman. He could assure him he had been assailed very strongly on both sides. One party was anxious to have the privilege of selling foreign spirits without a publican's license; and the other side, those who had taken out a publican's license, for which they paid very highly, objected to the privilege being granted to those not liable to the same expense as themselves. He had endeavoured to reconcile these conflicting interests, but without success. His wish was to make a satisfactory arrangement: but that wish had not yet been realized.

The House in Committee.

On the Question that the Chairman be directed to move the House that leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal the Duty on Glass,

Mr. Hawes

called the attention of the Government to the following Notice which had been given by the hon. Member for London (Mr. Pattison):—

"That drawbacks be allowed on the stocks of the London bottle merchants, the same being certified to be new bottles only, and also on all new bottles in transit from the manufactories, the same being shipped previous to the 5th day of April, and being provided with certificates from the manufacturers of their having paid duty; such drawbacks to be made on the same principle as to the other manufacturers and dealers in glass."

This was intended to have been brought under their consideration by his hon. Friend, who though he limited his Resolution to the city of London, had no objection that it should be extended throughout the country. It was not an appeal to the generosity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but it was proposed as a benefit to the Exchequer, and one that it would be for its interest to accede to. The bottle makers had a right to a drawback on bottles exported. Exporting them with that object might be injurious to traders here, and produce a glut abroad. What was desired was, to enter into a compromise.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that no one could better argue a question like this, than the hon. Gentleman; but he could not accede to the proposition. He could not tell what was the amount of duty to be remitted, but he could ascertain the amount of drawback on articles exported. Besides, it would be impossible to distinguish between old bottles and new. In his opinion, it would not be consistent with principle, nor for the advantage of the Revenue, to accede to the proposition.

Mr. Spooner

considered that some time should be allowed before the new scale of protective duties came into operation. He proposed on a future occasion to move that those duties have effect from and after the the 10th of April, 1846.

Sir Robert Peel

did not know whether or not it would be competent for the hon. Member to make such a Motion, after the passing of the Resolution now before the Committee; but he trusted the House would support the Government in relieving the glass trade from the restrictions to which it was now subject by an excise duty, amounting, in some cases, to 100 per cent.; and that they would insist at the same time, that the consumer should have the full advantage of the reduction of the duty at the earliest moment.

Lord John Russell

quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that the present scale of duties should not continue in force for a longer period than the Government proposed; but with regard to the question of drawback, he thought it should be the policy to make the loss as easy to those who had paid the duty as possible. When, for the public advantage, useless offices were abolished, it was usual to make the charge as little burdensome as possible to the individuals; and he thought, with regard to persons engaged in trade, when changes were made for the general benefit in excise duties, which those persons could not foresee or expect, he thought the same principle should be adopted. It was hard when a benefit was conferred upon the public, that a loss of 1,200l. or 1,500l. should be entailed on a sudden upon individuals without any allowance being made to them. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer found the course suggested impracticable, it would be another thing.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

denied that there was any analogy between the case of a person whose office was abolished, and that of a bottle merchant who had paid duty.

Resolution agreed to. House resumed.

Resolution reported. Bill ordered to be brought in.

House adjourned at a quarter past nine o'clock.