HC Deb 08 February 1847 vol 89 cc987-91

On the Motion that the House resolve itself into Committee on the Brewing from Sugar Bill,


expressed his regret that the Government had not assented to the proposition of his noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck) the Member for Lynn, to make this a temporary instead of a permanent measure, as he thought it would then have had the effect of sparing a considerable quantity of grain. The Bill before them was for the use of sugar in breweries; and, in reference to this subject, he doubted not they had all seen a very able pamphlet which had been laid on their Table, under the title of Good and Cheap Beer for the Million. The writer took five years, ending November 5, 1845, and he placed the average price of malt at 31s. 8d. It now realized from 32s. to 40s.; and in respect of the experiments which had been made, they went to show that the equivalent of sugar to malt was somewhat higher than the gentleman to whom he had referred had placed it, viz. at 180 lbs. of sugar to one quarter of malt; and what they had to consider was, whether the use of sugar would wholly, or even generally, throw malt out of use for brewing purposes. He (Mr. Miles) thought these experiments had been carried on on too small a scale, because he was of opinion that the extraction of sugar by larger quantities would have given a different result from that which had been produced. Still, however, pretty nearly the medium appeared to have been taken. He would, then, put the equivalent at 180 lbs.; and then, taking the price of barley at between 32s. and 40s., and adding the charges for malting, about 24s., they would have malt at from 56s. to 64s. Now, he found that, with malt at 56s., the relative value of sugar per cwt. would he 31s. 11d.—a price which, it would be admitted, was perfectly ridiculous. Going up to 64s. for malt, the relative price per cwt. of sugar would be 39s. 9d. But the price of sugar was 47s. 3d. before the Bill was brought forward; at that price it would only enter into competition against malt when malt was at 76s. He could not say, at that price the use of sugar would be very in- jurious to the consumption of malt, as, in brewing with the latter, there was a large amount of refuse which made excellent food for cattle, while in sugar there was nothing. The Breweries Bill, and that for the use of sugar in distilleries, might be discussed together, as they could not allow it to one, and refuse it to the other; and he looked at the latter also as a colonial question. They ought to see how their colonies would be affected; and on referring to the results of certain calculations which had been published, he found that, in three classes of sugar, the prices were as follows: Jamaica, 47s.; Mauritius, 48s.; and Havannah or Cuba, 49s. The last had to pay a duty of 7s., which proved that it could be sold cheaper than Jamaica, if the duty was taken off, by 5s.; besides which, the yield of Jamaica was only as 100 to Mauritius 200, and Havannah 300. Besides this, the quantity of alcohol extracted from the Cuba sugar was 3¾ per cent more than Jamaica; and when the duties were equalized, he thought the measure would tend as little to the advantage of the British colonies as to the British agriculturist. The hon. Gentleman read a letter which had appeared in the newspapers, on the subject of the duties on rum, in which some startling disclosures were also made as to sugar. The writer, who was a distiller, affirmed that the use of Cuba sugar would more than compensate for the differential duties on rum. He thought that as the present corn law was to be abolished in 1849, and the sugar duties assimilated in 1851, it was, to say the least, a strange proceeding now to legislate in a way which would produce a serious effect both on the colonies and the British producer, He regretted it was not a temporary measure. He would, like his right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, have consented to try it for two or three years, in order that its full bearings might be developed, But, considering the great alterations they were making, to pass these measures permanently was to start on a fearful experiment, without due consideration and inquiry. He complained that proper inquiry into the probable effects of the measure had been refused; and he hoped and trusted that in the Upper House a full inquiry would be instituted as to the probable effects the measure would have on the colonists and manufacturers. In that belief, he and the Gentlemen with whom he had the honour to act, would offer no opposition to the measure in that House.


said, that under the present system, a rich man was allowed to brew beer from sugar, but the poor man who was obliged to purchase his beer in small quantities, was deprived of a better article by not being permitted the use of sugar in public breweries. It was well known that an inferior quality of malt with a little sugar, would make a better, and cheaper, and more wholesome beverage, than that which might be made from all malt. He hoped that the Government would not yield to the interested clamours of Irish and Scotch distillers, who wished to retain a monopoly against the interests of the public. The colonial producers were now placed in competition with the growers of slave produce under great disadvantages, from the dearness and scarcity of labour; and that ought to be taken into consideration in reference to measures relating to the colonies. Notwithstanding those disadvantages, there was a duty of 6d. per gallon on rum still to be retained; and if to that were added the cost of freight, leakage, and dock-charges—which could not be less than a shilling—it would make 1s. 6d. a gallon. The Government had his best thanks for the measures which they had introduced.


would have preferred the measure as a temporary expedient; but would throw no impediments in the way of passing the Bill. With respect to distillation, of which the Irish Members complained so much, he had only to say, that if they had come forward last Session and aided the protectionists in opposing the pernicious principles of free trade, which with their aid might have been done successfully, they would have escaped a far greater evil than the Distilleries Bill. If the Irish Members would even then unite with them, they might regain the protection they had only lost by their dereliction, and return to the old sound system, which he so much regretted, and of which they were now discovering the value.


wished an instruction to be given to the Committee to introduce, with sugar, permission to introduce fresh liquorice into breweries, which would be a great boon to the liquorice growers of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.


objected on the same grounds as those on which it was now forbidden, namely, that, under the guise of liquorice, noxious drugs might be introduced into the composition of beer.

House in Committee.

On the 1st Clause,


said, that the terms of the clause, which mentioned the use of sugar in breweries, implied the disuse of barley; and he contended, therefore, that before the Bill was introduced, a full inquiry ought to have taken place as to the effect of that displacement. Without such an inquiry, he could not believe the Government would, under those circumstances, pass the measure. Should they do so, those Gentlemen with whom he had the honour to act, would content themselves with entering on the question at a future time. The effects of the measure would be more fully developed when the duties on foreign and colonial sugars were assimilated, and the question must therefore be then further discussed. For his own part, when he found that in the present year foreign sugar to the amount of 600,000l. had been entered for consumption, he considered it as a colonial question; and he felt certain the colonists themselves would insist in 1851 on its being reconsidered. He should, therefore, make no further opposition at that time, but entered his protest against the measure being considered a permanent one.


begged to mention a case of peculiar hardship. Under the present excise laws sugar was prohibited from being used in the colouring of drinks; but this Bill, by giving permission for the use of sugar in large breweries, virtually abolished that regulation, which still remained in full force against publicans who themselves brewed the ale they sold. He trusted the Government would make some alteration in the excise regulations to meet this case.


begged to ask the House what was the object for which this Bill was proposed? He thought it was for the purpose of saving the barley by the substitution of sugar for malt; but now they were told that the consumption of malt was to be increased. It was impossible that Government could pass the Bill, if what the hon. Member for Cumberland had said was true. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, he rather thought, had made use of the same sort of argument on a previous occasion. He concurred with the hon. Member for Warwickshire, that it might be injurious to the colonies and to the agriculture of that county; and he thought, therefore, that all parties were called on to pause before they passed the measure.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 11 agreed to. On the Motion that the Preamble be agreed to,


observed, that the present Bill was quite inconsistent with the legislation of the last Session. In the last Session, the House passed a Bill avowedly for the purpose of reducing the price of sugar to the consumer; now they were about to pass a measure which, in its result, must increase the price of sugar. Another point was, the present measure was introduced under false pretences. It was alluded to in the Queen's Speech as a measure which was to be productive of relief to Ireland; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing the Bill, touched very lightly on that point, and recommended it mainly as a boon to the colonial interest, and a question relating to revenue. If the Bill had been intended as a measure of relief to Ireland, it would have been introduced, like the other measures, as one of a temporary nature. As regarded the colonial interest, he thought they were entitled to any boon which the legislature could confer upon them; but he doubted whether when the term arrived, the colonial interest would not find that their present expectations had been disappointed. He would not detain the Committee longer, having only been anxious to point out the fact that the House was now passing a Bill which must have the effect of raising the price of sugar; whereas last year it passed another measure the declared object of which was to reduce the price of that article to the consumer.

Preamble agreed to. House resumed. Bill to be reported.

House adjourned at half-past Twelve o'clock.