HC Deb 02 February 1846 vol 83 cc427-8

rose, pursuant to notice, to ask the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government the questions relative to which he had given notice, or rather for the purpose of calling his attention to the subject, as he did not wish that the introduction of this question should at all interfere with, or be in any manner injurious to the carrying out of the great measure which the right hon. Baronet contemplated. But as the proposed measure contemplated the modification of restrictive duties, as well as removal of protective ones, he only considered it right to refer to the present condition of our own Colonies with regard to some of their productions—namely, rum, molasses, and sugar. The duties upon colonial spirits at present amounted almost to a prohibition. The differential duty between home and foreign spirits in England was 1s. 6d. a gallon, or about 100 per cent. on the value of the article. In Scotland the differential duty was 5s. 8d., or about 450 per cent. on the value of the article; and in Ireland it was 6s. 8d., which was a differential duty between home and foreign spirits of about 500 per cent. on the value. It was this enormous duty in Scotland and Ireland to which he wished to call the attention of the Government. Then, with regard to the other branch of the question of which he had given notice, he had only to remark, that there were two articles the produce of our Colonies adapted to distillation, he meant sugar and molasses, and yet at this moment there was a penalty of 200l. to which any brewer or distiller rendered himself liable on whose premises such articles might be found; whilst against a great number of deleterious substances no such prohibition existed. He did not wish to demand any specific reply now from the right hon. Baronet; he only wished to throw out these suggestions for his consideration previously to the adoption of his proposed commercial propositions. All these prohibitions to which he referred, so far as could be ascertained from the speech of the right hon. Baronet, remained untouched by his plan. He would not press for a decisive answer now, but merely express a hope that the Government would take these matters into consideration to which he had felt it to be his duty to call their attention.


said, he might perhaps have remained silent; but he feared some erroneous inference might be drawn from such a course. He had no hesitation, therefore, in at once announcing that at present Government had no intention of lowering the present rate of duties on rum, or altering the existing law with respect to molasses in distilleries. It was true the rate of duties in England, Scotland, and Ireland differed very much. The Government had attempted to lessen this difference some time ago in Ireland, by raising the duty on spirits; but this attempt had been found to materially encourage illicit distillation in that country, and therefore they had restored the law to its original condition, and even lowered the duty on spirits in Ireland. He was sure the hon. Gentleman opposite did not mean to propose that there should be a different rate of duty levied on rum imported into England, Scotland, and Ireland, and such was not the intention of the present Government; if such a thing was done great inconvenience might arise from it. The hon. Gentleman must be aware, with respect to the other branch of his question, that the prohibition against the use of molasses was only in operation with respect to those premises licensed for the distillation of spirits from corn.