HC Deb 11 June 1850 vol 111 cc1088-99

said, it was not necessary, in order to prove his case, to weary the House with any abstruse calculations or elaborate statistics. He rested the Motion he had the honour to propose, on the ground of equal justice to the home and colonial distillers; and he trusted that, on these grounds alone, the House would accede to his Motion. The case, as between the home and the colonial distillers was this, that in levying the excise duty on spirits of home manufacture, the quantity was measured for duty at the time when it was first made, or as it is called by the trade at the worm's end: if it was then bonded, the distiller, on releasing it from bond, was compelled to pay duty on the quantity originally bonded, no matter what diminution by leakage or evaporation it might have undergone since that period. Whereas, in the case of the colonial manufacturer, he had only to pay duty to the customs on what was measured out from the bonding warehouse, whenever it was released from bond, irrespective of the quantity originally placed in bond. So the home manufacturer had to pay duty on whatever loss or diminution the article sustained whilst in bond, whilst the colonial manufacturer only paid on the actual quantity measured out for consumption. That, in his opinion, was of itself sufficient to show the injustice and hardship to which the home manufacturer was subjected. Now to illustrate his position the more clearly, he would suppose that three casks of spirits, one of brandy, one of rum, and one of home spirits, were bonded, and that they remained in bond three years. At the end of that time, on being released, if the rum and brandy should be found to have lessened by two gallons each, these two gallons of absorption would not be paid duty on, whilst the home spirits, no matter to what extent it had diminished, would be compelled to pay duty, not in the quantity taken out at the end of the three years, as in the case of the rum and brandy, but on the quantity originally entered. To render it still plainer, he would read to the House the following statement of Messrs. Callwell and Horner:— Four quarter-casks of brandy were landed and stored (after a passage from France) in Dublin Custom-house stores, on the 13th of February, 1849. These casks were taken out at intervals, from July, 1849, to January, 1850. The original content of these four vessels was found, on gauge and trial of strength, to be 108 gallons; when taken out, the contents and strength had decreased to 103 gallons; waste, six gallons. Being French brandy, and taken out of bond, the duty, amounting to 4l. 10s., was remitted. What would be the result, if four casks of Irish whisky were similarly circumstanced? The owners would have to pay 2s. 8d. per gallon on the deficiency—say, 16s. on 102 gallons. Now, had these four casks of spirits been shipped from an Irish distiller to a London dealer, the natural course of trade, if unfettered from excise restrictions, was adopted, the owner would have to pay, when taking them out of bond in London for home consumption, the 'deficiency duty,' as it is termed, at the rate of 7s 10d. per gallon—that is, the owner of Irish or British-made spirits would be made to pay a species of penalty for having good spirits at the rate of 12d. 12–100 per gallon, whilst the owner of French brandy would be charged nil, and the favoured proprietor of sugar-made rum would be charged with nil—that is, in this petty transaction the home manufacturer under free-trade laws would be in a worse position by 21. 7s. than any foreigner. He was aware that he might be met by the argument, that as the home distiller enjoyed a differential duty of 4d. per gallon on colonial rum, that was a sufficient equivalent for the disadvantage in which he was placed with respect to the mode of levying the duty. But he must beg the House to remember that the 4d. differential duty-was founded on Mr. Wood's evidence before the Sugar and Coffee Committee, of which Lord George Bentinck was chair, man. Mr. Wood distinctly then stated that he thought the distillers had made out a case for 4d.; but what were the items of his 4d.? They were these—

Malt duty d.
Increased Plant 1d.
Excise restrictions 1d.
Duty on decreases ½d.
Total 4d.
Now, the House must see that only ½d. of this differential duty is affected by the present Motion, and therefore it is ridiculous to say that if the duty on decreases be remitted, that on that account the differential duty should be altered beyond the amount of ½d per gallon. The home distillers, however, did not consider the differential duty a sufficient compensation. It had also been objected to the adoption of any plan of measuring the spirits upon coming out of bond, that it would lead to considerable frauds on the revenue. What was, however, proposed, would in no degree affect the measurement at the worm's end, for it was quite possible to measure the spirits at the time of their coming from the still, and on their lodgment in the stores. Again, distillers were perfectly willing to pay the duty upon any deficiency that might arise between those periods, or in transitu; but what they complained of was, that they should have to pay the duty upon the loss occasioned by leakage or evaporation while the spirits remained under the Queen's seal. So far from this arrangement of paying upon the quantity leaving bond tending to increased frauds on the revenue, it would, in some cases, he the means of obviating a certain species of measurement, which was at present considerably against the Excise. For instance, the Excise could not measure to less than one-tenth of an inch, and where the spirit was measured in large receivers, and where there was necessarily a very extensive surface, the large distillers were frequently able to gain a considerable quantity, varying according to the circumstances of the case; while, on the other hand, if the spirits were measured in the warehouse, and upon their coming into consumption, the Excise would be able to measure accurately every drop of liquor. But, as to the falling oft" in the amount of revenue by reason of alteration in the present mode, those best acquainted with the trade in all its details were of opinion that production would be so enormously increased that the revenue would be a gainer. There was another mode in which these restrictions interfered with the distillers. It was a great object to the traders to be allowed to take advantage of the market, and to avail themselves of the prices that might offer there if favourable. Maturity also materially increased the value of the article. But the restrictions prevented the distiller and trader from keeping on hand large stocks, as he knew very well that by reason of the occurrence of deficiency or absorption he would be a loser in the way of duty chargeable for such absorption. The Irish distiller distilled from a mixture of malt and corn, whilst the Scotch distiller distilled from malt alone, consequently the Scotch distillation sooner arrived at maturity than the Irish, so that a greater time of bond, and consequently a greater amount of excise duty, fell on the Irish article of distillation. These restrictions were most obnoxious, and their tendency was to reduce the number of distilleries, throwing the whole trade into the hands of the large distillers. That reduction in the number of distilleries was injurious in more ways than one, because it threw a number of persons out of employment, as well in the distilleries as in the turf tracts, much of which article was used in the manufacture of spirits, and the cutting of which afforded employment to thousands. The spirit traders also complained that these restrictions interfered with the export trade. It might be said, they were allowed to export duty free; but the House should remember that to avail themselves of that privilege they were obliged to bond their spirits and declare it for exportation immediately on its being manufactured. But no trader could afford to do that. The statement of the trade on the subject is as follows:— The Government were compelled from the great injustice of this part of the subject, to order that whisky may be exported under the same regulations as affect colonial and foreign spirits, pro- vided it be declared by the manufacturer when bonding the spirits, that they are for exportation. This so-called relief is not of the smallest value. No manufacturer will so place his property that he will not be enabled at any time to dispose of it in the best market and to the most advantage. What the trade requires is plain and simple: That Irish made spirits may be placed in respect to the method of levying duty on precisely the same footing with colonial and foreign spirits. No man would so place his property as not to be able to take it out and make the best sale that the market would allow. Therefore, not only were the distillers of Scotland and Ireland, but all the spirit traders of these countries, immensely interested in this important question; and he could not but think the House would consent to remove these restrictions that weighed so heavily on a large and influential body of manufacturers. The claim was one of simple justice: all they demand is, that the trader and manufacturer should not pay tax for an article which at the time of payment is not in existence. The revenue can hardly suffer to any extent. There is no breach of faith with the West Indies: they ask but equal measurement for all. In these days of free trade, when the removal of duties on every article of necessity was the cry, he could not think the House would refuse to remove these heavy and pressing restrictions on an important branch of home industry.

Motion made, and Question put— That this House do immediately resolve itself into a Committee, to take into consideration the present mode of levying the Duty on Home-made Spirits in Bond.


seconded the Motion. He felt a particular interest in the question from the circumstance of his connexion with Campbeltown, where extensive distillery operations were carried on, and an annual amount of duty paid ranging from 250,000l. to 300,000l. He had also presented a petition from the island of Isla, where a large amount of duty was also paid. He was prepared to admit that the distillers of Scotland were not so disadvantageously situated as those of Ireland. He would also admit that, two years ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made very considerable concessions, and in consequence of these concessions, the trade of Campbeltown was in a very flourishing state. It was always with pain that he felt himself compelled to give a vote in opposition to Her Majesty's present Government; but he felt assured that, in the present instance, the course he was pursuing was that of justice.


said, that the noble Lord, in introducing the Motion, wished the House to infer it was a question of free trade. But if the noble Lord had paid attention to the subject, as, indeed, lhs speech showed he had, he might have seen it was the intention of the House, in arranging the spirit duties in 1848, altogether to disregard the question of protection, and to place the home and colonial manufacturers as nearly as possible in a parallel position. Of the several questions that engaged the attention of the Sugar Committee of 1848, there was none that occupied so much of their time, or to which they gave more laborious consideration, than that of fixing the relative duties on home and colonial spirits. The noble Lord adverted to the fact that duty is paid on the quantity of home spirits originally bonded, whilst, as regarded colonial spirits, duty is only paid on the quantity taken from bond. But the noble Lord forgot that this was one of the chief considerations which determined the decision of the Committee in fixing a duty of 4d. a gallon higher on colonial than on home spirits, and a duty on foreign spirits of 15s., double what was charged on British spirits. He considered that after a Committee of that House and the House itself had resolved that the difference between the two classes of consumers should be settled at 4d. per gallon, it would be unfair of the House now to disturb that arrangement—both unfair to the West Indians, as well as to the producers of spirits in the other parts of the empire. The position was this: either the duty at present charged on home spirits must be increased, or the colonial duty diminished, in order to bring-both manufacturers to an exact relation. What was the cause of complaint as regarded the home producer? Several years ago an application was made to the Legislature to permit the home distiller to bond any portion of his stock, in order that he might have credit on the duty, and export what he pleased without paying the duty. He should say that such was a great boon, because it was equivalent to giving the home manufacturers credit on the duty; and, consequently, it was not fair that these gentlemen should now come forward—after having so long enjoyed such a privilege—and seek for a further boon and privilege. At the sittings of the Sugar Committee the chairman of the Inland Re- venue Office gave some very valuable evidence respecting this matter. He showed that in 1833, upon 2,672,000 gallons, the decreases amounted only to 3–10ths of a gallon per cent. In the year 1845–46, upon the transactions of the year, 5,138,000 gallons, the decrease was rather more than a halfpenny per gallon; whilst as regarded the rectifier, referred to by the noble Lord, the decrease was ¾d. per gallon. It was upon such evidence that an arrangement was submitted to the House, and assented to by it, as also by the West Indian manufacturers. It was considered a fair settlement of the question; and therefore if hon. Gentlemen representing the distilling interests should think fit to call for a new arrangement, they should not be surprised if the West Indians came forward and demanded a readjustment likewise. The noble Lord complained that the restriction deterred manufacturers from working on speculation, by reason of the duty to be paid on the quantity of spirits made and bonded, to meet the demand that might turn up in the market. But surely if barley were cheap, they could buy it and store it, free of duty, and in that way there would be an advantage. The West Indian Committee was either right or wrong in fixing 4d. per gallon as a differential duty between the home and colonial producers; and if so, it was clear that that arrangement would be disturbed by any alteration that at present might be made. Therefore he suggested that it could not be for the interest of the home distillers that that arrangement should be disturbed, made, as it had been, after mature care and deliberation; and after every opportunity had been given them to come before the Committee, it would not be fair now to seek that that arrangement should be disturbed.


, who was met on his rising by loud calls for a division, said, that he could quite understand the impatience of hon. Gentlemen who had come down in considerable numbers to vote in favour of the Motion, but he did not think that it was quite a reasonable mode of settling a question of considerable importance to divide upon it without hearing its merits discussed, and, therefore, he hoped that they would allow him to state to the House that which he believed fairly represented the real state of the case. Although this Motion did not profess to have that object, it really was as much an attempt to reduce the receipts of the Exchequer as any of those Motions which had been successfully resisted in the course of the present Session. The proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Kildare was, that distillers should pay duty on their spirits after the loss by wastage had been ascertained, instead of on the quantity manufactured. That would necessarily lead to the reduction of the revenue, and he would ask the House, if any reduction was to take place in the receipts of the Exchequer, whether it would be of most advantage to the country that the decrease should be occasioned by a diminution of the duty on spirits? He did not think that the duty on this article called for any reduction at all; and, as the diminution proposed was a reduction which would apply almost exclusively to Scotland and Ireland, he did not think it would be quite fair to the English distiller. The duty on English spirits was 7s. 10d. per gallon, on Scotch, 3s. 8d, and on Irish, 2s. 8d.; and yet the noble Lord called for a reduction of the duty on the spirits upon which the lowest charge was imposed. Sound policy would dictate the equalisation of the duties in the three countries, lowering the duty in England, and raising it in Scotland and Ireland, The noble Lord admitted that little or no benefit would be gained by England from the reduction which he proposed, and the distillers themselves allowed that there was no safety to the revenue after the spirits had left the premises of the distiller. Was it "equal justice," then, to England, to make concessions to the Irish distillers which would be of no use to the English producer? The whole question was under consideration when the Colonial Spirits Bill was discussed in 1848, and was much before the House at that time. The objection made to the Colonial Spirits Bill was not to the extent of benefit that it would confer on the colonial producer, but that there was still too high a duty on spirits, both of colonial and home produce. At that time he made a number of concessions to the distillers, who hardly thanked him for what he had done, and said that little benefit would be derived from what he had yielded to them. If the hon. Gentleman would refer to the returns on the table, he would see that his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) measure had created a large export trade in home spirits. The noble Lord said he could assure the House that the Irish and Scotch distillers were destroyed by the competition with the colonial producers; but what were the real facts of the case? Ireland, years ago, consumed not less than a million of gallons of rum a year; but previous to 1846 the quantity was only 14,000 gallons. The consumption of rum in Scotland and Ireland was not so great in 1849 as it was in 1847, therefore it could not be said that the reduction of the duty on rum in 1848 was injurious to the Irish and Scotch producers. They had been told that there had been a remarkable increase in the consumption of rum during the last two years. The consumption of rum in Scotland in 1847 was 382,000 gallons, and in 1849 it was 250,000. The consumption of rum in Ireland in 1847 was 176,000, and in 1849 it was 182,000 gallons. Surely such a state of things could hardly be said to have ruined the home producer. The home consumption of British spirits in 1847 was 8,749,000, and in 1849 it was 9,050,000 gallons. In Scotland, in 1847, the quantity of home-made spirits on which duty was paid for consumption was 6,193,000; and in 1849, 6,935,000 gallons. In Ireland, where they were told the trade had been ruined by the importation of rum, the consumption in 1847 was 6,037,000, and in 1849 it was 6,972,000 gallons. Thus it appeared that in 1849 there was an increase of 930,000 gallons in home-made spirits, which pretty clearly showed that no great injury had been done to the Irish distiller by the introduction of colonial spirits. He would beg hon. Gentlemen to recollect that since the Act of 1848, of which such complaints had been made, there had been an increase in the consumption of rum to the extent of 6,000 gallons in Ireland, while there had been an increase in the consumption of homemade spirits to no less an amount than 930,000 gallons. Some allusion had been made to the export of home-made spirit. The fact was, by the measure which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had introduced, the trade had been almost created since 1848. The return on the table gave, as the quantity of British spirits exported in 1847, not one gallon, and in 1849 it was 73,000 gallons. The quantity of Scotch spirits exported in 1847 was 64,680, and in 1849 it had increased to 206,000 gallons. The quantity of Irish spirits exported in 1847 was 6,439 gallons, and in 1849, 67,000 gallons, so that there had been an increase to tenfold an extent in two years in the exportation of Irish spirits. Irish and Scotch distillers had also derived an advantage in the English markets to the extent of 1,500,000 gallons. On these grounds, he thought that the noble Lord was mistaken in the statements on which he grounded his Motion, and, also, that he was not justified in charging him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) with having been unmindful of the claims of the Irish and Scotch distillers. The adoption of the Motion of the noble Lord would be attended with great inconvenience; it would be a great injustice to the English and colonial distillers, and it would virtually cause the reduction of the duty on an article upon which he thought no reduction should be made.

The House divided:—Ayes 85; Noes 53: Majority 32.

List of the AYES.
Alexander, N. M'Cullagh, W. T.
Anstey, T. C. M'Gregor, J.
Barron, Sir H. W. Magan, W. H.
Bateson, T. Meagher, T.
Best, J. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Boyd, J. Moffatt, G.
Chatterton, Col. Monsell, W.
Cobbold, J. C. Moore, G. H.
Crawford, W. S. Mullings, J. R.
Dawson, hon. V. Muntz, G. F.
Devereux, J. T. Napier, J.
Dick, Q. Nugent, Lord
Dickson, S. Nugent, Sir P.
Drummond, H. H. O'Brien, J.
Duff, G. S. O'Brien, Sir L.
Duff, J. O'Brien, Sir T.
Duncan, G. O'Connell, M.
Dundas, G. O'Connell, M. J.
Dunne, Col. O'Flaherty, A.
Edwards, H. Prime, R.
Ewart, W. Rawdon, Col.
Fagan, W. Richards, R.
Fergus, J. Roche, E. B.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Sadleir, J.
FitzPatrick. rt. hon. J. Scholefield, W.
Forbes, W. Scully, F.
French, F. Smith, J. B.
Gaskell, J. M. Smollett, A.
Gordon, Adm. Somers, J. P.
Grace, O. D. J. Stafford, A.
Grogan, E. Stanley, hon. E. H.
Gwyn, H. Sullivan, M.
Hamilton, G. A. Talbot, J. H.
Hastie, A. Tenison, E. K.
Hastie, A. Thompson, Col.
Herbert, H. A. Traill, G.
Hildyard, R. C. Walmsley, Sir J.
Hume, J. Wawn, J. T.
Jones, Capt. Westhead, J. P. B.
Keating, R. Williams, J.
Keogh, W. Wodehouse, E.
Kershaw, J. TELLERS.
Lockhart, W. Naas, Lord
Mackie, J. Stuart, Lord J.
List of the NOES.
Abdy, Sir T. N. Alcook, T.
Adair, R. A. S. Armstrong, R. B.
Aglionby, H. A. Baines, rt. hon. M. T.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T. Lennard, T. B.
Barnard, E. G. Lewis, G. C.
Berkeley, Adm. Lushington, C.
Brotherton, J. Martin, J.
Brown, W. Melgund, Visct.
Browne, R. D. Morison, Sir W.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Paget, Lord A.
Craig, Sir W. G. Parker, J.
Dundas, Adm. Plowden, W. H. C.
Ebrington, Visct. Rich, H.
Ellis, J. Romilly, Col.
Elliott, hon. J. E. Russell, Lord J.
Evans, J. Russell, F. C. H.
Fordyce, A. D. Seymour, Lord
Forster, M. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Smith, J. A.
Grey, R. W. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Hall, Sir B. Thornely, I.
Harris, R. Trelawny, J. S.
Hatchell, J. Wilson, J.
Hawes, B. Wood, rt, hon. Sir C.
Hayter, rt. hon. W. G. Wood, W. P.
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J. TELLERS.
Hodges, T. L. Hill, Lord M.
Howard, Lord E. Bellew, R. M.

Matter considered in Committee; Mr. E. B. Roche in the chair.


then proposed, as the first resolution— That the duties payable on British spirits when taken out of warehouse for home consumption shall be charged on the quantity ascertained by the measure and strength of the sum actually delivered, save and except that when such spirits are not in a warehouse of special security no greater abatement, on account of deficiency of the quantity or strength, as ascertained at the time the said spirits were warehoused, shall be made than shall be after the several rates of allowance following, that is to say;—for every 100 gallons, hydrometer proof, for any time not exceeding three months, two gallons; for any time exceeding three months, and not exceeding six months, three gallons; for any time exceeding six and not exceeding twelve months, four gallons; and for every additional six months, one gallon,


would not then make any objections to the details of this resolution, but he should take the opportunity of doing so at some future stage. He wished the House clearly to understand that by this course he did not pledge himself to abstain from opposing the proposal in the future stages of the Bill.

Resolution agreed to.


then proposed the second resolution:— That when British spirits are taken out of a warehouse for ship stores and for exportation to foreign parts, no duty shall be charged on any deficiency that may occur in warehouse, save and except that if the said spirits shall not be in a warehouse of special security, the duty shall be charged on any deficiency exceeding the rate" allowance in the foregoing resolution,

Resolution agreed to.

House resumed. Resolutions to be reported on Friday.