§ MR. BASS
said, that in submitting the Motion of which he had given notice, for the repeal of half the Malt Tax, after the 10th October, 1852, he would not at present enter into any elaborate consideration of the question; but he would take the earliest opportunity of assuring the House that his proposition did not, in any way, involve the revenues of the current financial year. Not desiring that his proposition should involve those revenues, he had, with that view, named a day beyond the financial year, namely, the 10th of October, 1852; and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer might make himself easy on that point. The issue he then wished to try was, whether the House was disposed, at any period, to entertain the question of a reduction of the duty on malt. In bringing forward this Motion he wished to impress it on the House, that he had no desire whatever to embarrass Her Majesty's Government; on the contrary, he had been 900 many years an humble, but earnest, supporter of the present Ministry. The noble Lord at the head of that Ministry had lately very frankly informed the House, that in his opinion, the House, or any private Member of it, had a decided right to consider all questions of finance and taxation that might be complained of as burdensome, and that the Executive Government could, without any loss of dignity, reconsider any particular scheme of taxation they had proposed. He wished, therefore, that the noble Lord would reconsider that part of his scheme, with a view, at some future period, of extending some indulgence to the classes who were anxious for relief from this particular burden. It had lately been asserted by an hon. Member as an axiom that where the duty was reduced on articles of foreign produce, it was but just to reduce the duty on similar articles of home production. They had taken off all the duties that were protective of agricultural produce; but the duty malt was permitted to remain untouched. The right hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) had complained that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not dealt with those taxes that were in their nature elastic, such as soap, malt, &c. To reduce a rate of taxation did not necessarily involve a reduction in the amount of revenue. In many instances the consumption had, on the contrary, been increased. He should there refer to the opinion of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) on the late occasion of the discussion on the hop duty, the repeal of half of which duty he characterised as "making two bites of a cherry." The duties, however, amounted last year to about 200,000l., and he thought that sum was of sufficient importance to be taken into consideration. The hon. Gentleman had been always an advocate for the reduction of taxation, and had been also successful in his advocacy of free trade; and he then begged to ask him if it were an inexorable law of free trade to give every possible relief to foreign articles, but, at the same time, to stubbornly resist all reduction on articles of home production? It had been asserted by the late Sir Robert Peel, that as a condition of repealing the corn laws, it would be only just that the malt tax should be removed. He (Mr. Bass) then held in his hand a very remarkable pamphlet, published in the year 1836, after the sitting of the Committee which inquired into agricultural distress in that 901 year, and from which he begged to quote a few passages. The first was to this effect:—The present enormous duty on malt constitutes in itself one of the great grounds on which agriculturists can establish a claim for protection against competition.Well, that ground was now gone. Yet the malt tax remained to its full extent. But if the agricultural interest asked for the abolition of the tax when the corn law was repealed, he had no doubt they would get it. It had been objected to his proposition, that it was a brewers' and maltsters' question. He denied that. He had not been asked by any one brewer to submit the proposition, whilst the maltsters deprecated it altogether. He would read one or two other passages from the pamphlet he had previously mentioned. Quoting from the report of the Commissioners of Excise, the pamphlet states, that "with a low rate of duty, a greater quantity of malt and a greater quantity of beer and spirits would be made." In page 17, it says, "It is impossible not to admit that a reduction of the malt duty would cause an increased demand for barley, and would consequently operate beneficially on the interests of agriculture." It was impossible, he considered, to prove his case more clearly and succinctly than by the passages he had read. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, on a former occasion, in reply to the hon. Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire (Mr Cayley), that a reduction of duty was not always productive of benefit to the consumer, and alleged, as the reason for the falling-off in the consumption of beer, that the taste of the people for their favourite beverage had diminished. Now, when the duty was reduced in 1836, there was an enormous increase in the consumption of beer; the consumption reached its highest point. After 1836 it declined, but that was owing to the circumstances that tea, coffee, and cocoa had been brought into greater competition with beer. People could not drink all manner of things and in the same proportion. Although in 1842 there were only 4,385,000 quarters of malt consumed, and in 1847 only 4,200,000 quarters, yet in 1850 there were 5,300,000 quarters consumed, being more than 1,000,000 quarters over the consumption of 1847. The reason undoubtedly was, that the taste of the people for intoxicating beers had diminished, and they now drank beers of a more moderate strength, 902 so that the consumption of light beers had considerably increased. He could see the difference that had taken place in that respect within his own experience. He now brewed ten barrels of light beer to one barrel of strong beer, and where he formerly brewed three barrels of strong beer, he did not now brew one. There was another reason for the consumption of beer not having been so large as might have been anticipated, which was, that it had always maintained the same price. It was a remarkable fact that beer had not changed its price for twenty-one years; all other articles had been reduced in price; but whether the price of barley was 30s., 60s., or the average price of 33s. 6d., the price of beer was always the same. There was a reason for that stability of price with respect to beer which did not apply to all trades. In the spring of 1847, when the price of barley was 55s., the brewers tried to advance the price of beer, but it did not last ten days, for the publicans came in a body to the brewers, and told them that they could not alter their retail prices; that they (the brewers) must take an average profit and loss, and set the gain of one year against the loss of another, but that they (the publicans) could not distribute occasional increase in price over the small quantities they had to sell. Now if the retail dealers, (the publicans) would not be satisfied with a change for one year, he would put it to the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Frewen), who had an Amendment upon his (Mr. Bass') Motion, whether they would submit to a change every quarter of a year for five years, which must be the result if his proposition for "reducing the rate of duty by 1½d. per bushel every quarter of a year till the whole was repealed," was carried. Now, as the duty was at present 21s. 8d. per quarter, it would be constantly in a state of fluctuation for five years and a half. Another objection to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman was, that, as the traders would require an allowance for the duty on the stock on hand, the stock would have to he taken every three months; and how was it possible to do that? He would now show that the revenue would not be likely to suffer from a reduction of the malt duty, from the analogous instances of coffee, sugar, and brandy. When the duty on coffee was 18d. a lb., its consumption was less than 1,000,000 lbs.; but when it was reduced to 4d. a lb., the consumption rose to 37,000,000 lbs. The revenue 903 from a shilling duty was greater than from an 18d. duty; it was more from 6d. than from 1s., and it would be greater from 4d. than from 6d., if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not encourage traders to sell for coffee a spurious article, which was not coffee. The revenue from sugar amounted to 5,000,000l. Notwithstanding that they derived such a large amount of revenue from this article, they did not fear to reduce the duty on British plantation sugar by one half, whilst the duty on foreign sugar was reduced from 56s. to a very low figure indeed; and yet they got already 4,000,000l. of revenue, and he had no doubt they would get the whole of the 5,000,000l. in a short time. The duty on brandy had been reduced from 22s. to 15s. The revenue under the former price was 1,200,000l.; under the latter price it was 1,400,000l. Now beer was not in less general consumption than these articles; indeed he did not hesitate to say it was in more general consumption than all the others put together; and if treated in the same way, he had no doubt it would be found to be governed by the same laws. They also abolished the duty on bread. He was not now saying whether that was right or wrong, although it was well known that he inclined to the free-trade party in that House. He certainly did not anticipate that he would have ever seen the time when there would be no duty whatever on corn. He did not say that was wrong, and he believed it would be dangerous to alter that state of things now. Since 1847 the consumption of bread was more by 10,000,000 quarters of grain than it was before. Now, beer was sustenance like bread, presented in another form and through a different medium, and if the duty upon it was reduced, he had no doubt that reduction would be followed by increased consumption. The noble Lord the Member for Kildare (Lord Naas) told the House the other evening that a reduction of the duty on spirits would increase the morality of his countrymen—that they would be more temperate if they got old and good whisky—for it was only the crude raw spirit which demoralised the people. He (Mr. Bass) was not going to advocate that proposition; but he would not hesitate to say, that if the people of this country could get beer of good quality and moderate strength at a moderate price, they might expect to see the morality of the country improve. The working man would not then drink to be intoxicated, but 904 refresh and relieve his spirits after the labour and exhaustion of the day. Let the House adopt his Motion, and they would assist the farmer and benefit the consumer, without injuring the revenue.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That on and after the 10th day of October, 1852, one half of the Malt Tax be repealed.
would not disparage for a moment the peculiar product which the hon. Member (Mr. Bass) had very naturally eulogised, and of which he was not, in the presence of the House, a more brilliant and successful advocate, than he was in the opinion of mankind a useful and beneficent reformer. He did not wish the House to be at all biassed by two remarkable admissions which had been most candidly delivered by the hon. Member in his speech. They were, that he had no friends to-night among the maltsters or the brewers. Such a circumstance could hardly be considered as an argument in favour of the Motion. But the adverse and disinterested sentiment of both the maltsters and the brewers ought not to sway the House; unless it coincided with the public interests, he should take the liberty of glancing at. In as much as the House had settled by a large majority, not many weeks ago, that the total abrogation of the malt tax ought not to be endured or entertained: in spite of all that persevering eloquence could urge in support of so great a fiscal revolution, it would be consonant, perhaps, with the reason of the case upon the one hand, and the rules of that House upon the other, to consider upon what principles they were guided to their late conclusion, and how far those principles should guide them in their vote to-night. The principles which guided them the other night, were obviously the principles which had guided them on similar occasions for upwards of thirty years. They were in the works of our political economists. They had been embodied in debates, and had found their way into our literature. In March, 1835, the late Sir Robert Peel, in a remarkable address, had amplified, digested, and enforced them. That speech was well remembered in the House, and because it was well remembered, he (Mr. Campbell) would be very brief in his support of the conclusion which it vindicated. The principles in favour of the Malt Tax were short and easy to be stated. They were—that it was introduced in admirable times, and formed by admirable statesmen; 905 that, in 1775, Dr. Adam Smith had stamped his warmest approbation on it; that it falls on a commodity of which all classes are consumers, but of which the consumption will encounter any tax you may impose, being founded upon national ideas, and firm in national propensities; that it coincides with many canons of taxation, and particularly with the canon which explains to us that a large revenue ought to be collected at a moderate expense. This point was forcibly explained by the late Sir Robert Peel in the great harangue he had adverted to. There was one further argument in favour of the Malt Tax, which, as it was not in the books, he should be forgiven for advancing. Without encroaching much upon the profits of the farmer, it drew his capital from the production of the less necessary grains, to the production of the grains which were move essential in the hour of public want and national emergency. He should not dwell on this argument, however, because it had been estimated that a fixed duty of 1s. 6d. would indemnify the agriculturist for the inconvenience he sustained; and, in point of fact, the inconvenience was in some degree the measure of the benefit. If these views were sound, and the House had frequently assented to them, to encroach upon the Malt Tax would not be more correct or prudent than to abrogate it. Were there no other tasks to occupy them, and no other duties to engage them in the sphere of fiscal legislation, than the hardy pastime and adventurous pursuit into which the hon. Member had invited them? Had they no other outlet for the redundant cash of the Exchequer? Had they no lower classes to instruct? an end which could not be accomplished unless something like an annual million were devoted to it. Had they no tea duties to deal with—no tobacco to release? No soap, advertisements, or paper, to emancipate? Not that he intended, for a moment, in classing these articles together, to assign to them an equal claim on the financial generosity of Parliament. To place his objections to the Motion in the strongest light consistent with political discretion, he would go so far as to contend that a 2s. duty upon corn would be better than a violation of the Malt Tax; and if such a duty were imposed, the Malt Tax would be rather strengthened than enfeebled. If such a duty were imposed, it might be possible as well to extend the other sources of revenue which Dr. Smith had sanctioned 906 and immortalised—he meant the House Tax, and the Land Tax.
§ MR. FREWEN
said, that the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) was doubtless aware that the great point which the agriculturists were anxious to obtain was the total repeal of the malt tax. Now, he wished to ask the hon. Member, whether he was to understand the present Motion for a reduction of half the duty as a stepping-stone toward its total repeal on some future occasion?
§ MR. BASS
said, that having voted on two recent occasions for the total repeal of the tax, he should have supposed that the hon. Member would not have thought it necessary to make such an inquiry. He was certainly favourable to the total repeal of the malt tax, but upon the principle of half a loaf being better than no bread, he would for the present be satisfied with the promise of a partial reduction.
§ MR. FREWEN
said, that under these circumstances he should not propose the Amendment of which he had given notice.
§ MR. ALCOCK
thought that the country should feel deeply indebted to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bass) for bringing forward this question, As they could not get total repeal, he thought that even the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would admit that great injustice had been suffered under the malt tax, and that it was only in a financial point of view that the continuance of the tax was tolerated. He would take that opportunity of suggesting to the right hon. Gentleman that it was in his power this evening to propose an act of benefit to the agricultural interest, which would be attended with immense advantage. It was, namely, to threaten the imposition of a duty upon Peruvian guano. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the propriety of proposing a tax of 10l. a ton upon that article. He confessed at once that he did not expect a large amount of revenue from this source; but he appealed to the Protectionist Members whether the threat of imposing such a tax was not more likely to benefit the agriculturist than a reduction of 50 per cent on the malt tax? The present price of Peruvian guano was between 9l. and 10l. per ton; and he had no hesitation in saying that it could be brought to the Thames and sold at a handsome profit for 5l. 10s. a ton. Yet the price asked for it by Gibbs and Co., the importers, was 10l. 10s. a ton if they purchased less than thirty tons; or 907 9l. 5s. if they purchased a larger quantity, subject to a discount of 2½ per cent. But the fact was, that the article was in the hands of the Peruvian Government alone, and that it was a monstrous case of monopoly. He would suggest, however, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should say to the Peruvian Government, "Unless you deal more fairly and liberally with our agriculturists, in the sale of this article, we will at once put a heavy duty upon it." Thus, the Peruvian Government would be deprived of funds from this source; and the consequence would be, that the Peruvian Bonds would go down in the market. The payment of 3,700,000l. of Peruvian bonds depended entirely on the farmers of England, and but for them not a farthing would be received upon those bonds. The English farmers now took 100,000 tons of guano yearly, and it would be better for the Peruvian Government, as well as for the English farmer, for them to sell 500,000 tons yearly, at 5l. 10s. per ton. There were 20,000,000 acres of arable land alone in England, and taking only a single cwt. per acre, the transport of guano for that purpose would employ 1,600 ships, and put 500,000l. yearly in the pocket of the Peruvian Government. That might appear not to have much to do with the subject of malt, but it had a great deal to do with the interests of agriculture, for which the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) had expressed his sympathy.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, that as he was a farmer, perhaps the House would excuse him if he said one or two words on the manner in which the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Alcock) had introduced the subject to which he had referred. He (Sir W. Jolliffe) should be exceedingly obliged to the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs if he would compel the Peruvian Government to supply him with guano at 5l. per ton; but how the hon. Member for East Surrey proposed to carry out such a plan by laying upon that article an import duty of 10l. a ton, he could not for the life of him conceive. Perhaps he had misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, and he might have meant to say a duty of 10s. per ton. At the same time he must remark that the speeches of the hon. Members for Derby (Mr. Bass), Cambridge, (Mr. Campbell), and East Surrey, must have convinced the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he could not long go on, under the altered circumstances of the country, with the old financial sys- 908 tem. There was no doubt that agriculture bore all the old burdens now to which it was formerly subjected, while the protection they once enjoyed had been taken away. It was clear that such a state of things could not long endure. He himself should prefer a total repeal of the malt tax to the reduction of half the duty, because he was convinced there was no tax more oppressive to the interest with which he was connected, and because he believed that until they got rid of this tax, the House would never be able to deal with the question of raising a revenue by the means of beer-shops. The hon. Member for Derby was almost the only brewer, indeed the only brewer of any magnitude, who advocated the remission of the malt tax; and it was remarkable that while the agriculturists had no protection at all, brewing and distilling were protected in the most stringent manner by prohibitions, and had become complete monopolies. It was all very fine to say that protection was dead; but it must not be forgotten that it was carried to its most pernicious extent on behalf of the distillers, maltsters and brewers, and that an enormous revenue of 15,000,000l. was raised to the Exchequer by means of this pernicious system. He believed that in the face of free trade such a system could not go on. They could not go on blowing hot and cold, raising 15,000,000l. by a system in which monopoly and protection were combined, and at the same time applying the theory of free trade to agricultural products. The hon. Member for Cambridge said, that the Motion was a tampering with the malt tax, and that he should prefer a 2s. duty on corn to a mitigation of this tax. He (Sir W. Jolliffe) certainly did not believe that the public would be benefited by the mitigation of the tax, and he should only vote for it with a view to the total repeal of the duty. If the tax were only partially taken off, the whole expense of the machinery of collection would remain, and the malt monopoly would continue as before. Unless the House treated the remission of half the duty as an instalment merely, he did not think that it would be expedient to stir in the matter. At the same time, as the hon. Member for Derby had voted for the total repeal of the tax, and believing that he intended the present measure simply as an instalment of total repeal, he could not refuse to go into the same lobby with him; but he must add that he should do so with a conviction that the whole 909 system of taxation in this country must undergo an entire change before long.
§ MR. HEYWORTH
perfectly agreed with the hon. Member who had just sat down, in thinking that it would be impossible to maintain for any length of time the tax upon malt, which, being a tax upon consumption, could not fail to press heavily upon the industry of the country. He was rejoiced to hear the arguments which had been that night employed on the other side of the House, as he was convinced that the repeal of the malt tax must lead to direct taxation, which must, after all, be the system which would prevail. He would carry down the income tax to the lowest level, even so far as to tax the wages of the labouring poor, and then the Exchequer would be rich enough to take off not only 5,000,000l. of malt tax, but 5,000,000l. of other taxes.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
said, he readily admitted that, at the moment they had abolished protection and had adopted free trade, they had condemned the malt tax, and that it would be impossible to carry out the two systems together, and that sooner or later the malt tax must be repealed. But he was not prepared to vote, either immediately or gradually, for a repeal of the malt tax. It appeared to him they ought not to lose sight of that very important consideration—how the loss of the revenue derived from the malt tax could be supplied. In his opinion that was a matter of so much importance, that it was the duty of any Gentleman who proposed a repeal or a reduction of the tax, to state how he would raise an amount of revenue equal to that which he would repeal. He should further observe, that he did not think the repeal of the malt tax would afford any very general relief to the agricultural interest, although he was willing to admit that it would be productive of some partial benefit to that interest. He should also say it was a matter of the utmost importance to the agricultural interest in considering that question to know what tax they were to have as a substitute for the malt tax; for it was quite possible that the substitute might be worse than the tax itself. As an agriculturist he could gather no consolation from the proposal of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Alcock) that a duty of 10l. should be imposed on Peruvian guano, nor did he see how the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to benefit by its adoption.
§ MR. GEORGE SANDARS
Sir, hav- 910 ing so recently expressed my opinions on this question, I should not now have troubled the House, had it not been for one or two remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has brought forward this Motion. The hon. Gentleman says, the brewers and the maltsters are opposed to it. Now, in my humble opinion, they are the very parties who would be most benefited by a repeal of this duty; it is, in fact, mainly a brewer's question; take off the duty, and you put it into the pockets of the brewers. If any one expects to see them reduce the price of beer as a consequence, they will, I believe, be greatly deceived. Has not the price of barley fallen some 20s. per quarter in the last few years—a sum equal to the whole of the duty? yet no reduction has taken place in the brewers' prices. The hon. Gentleman admits that in 1847 his firm paid as high as 60s. per quarter for barley, and that the brewers made an attempt to advance the price of beer; but, I ask, have they during the present year, when the best barley has been selling at 25s. and 20s. per quarter, made any attempt to reduce it? Nor will they if you take off the duty; half the duty is less than one halfpenny per quarter, and though you may brew excellent beer at 2d., yet the price the brewers retail theirs at, to the public, is from 4d. to 6d. per quart. Take off the duty, and you will have two great monopolies in place of one. At present a man of small means may carry on a large business as a maltster, trading on the credit he receives from the Government (say six months, on 21s. per quarter) which is nearly 50 per cent on the cost of his article; but do away with the duty, and you throw the trade into the hands of the large maltsters and capitalists, thus raising up, in addition to the brewers', a maltsters' monopoly also. I have, Sir, another decided objection to the partial repeal of this duty: the same expenses in collection will remain, and the same vexatious restrictions and annoying penalties—some thirty-two—most of them of 100l. and upwards, and in 1847, no less than 192 prosecutions took place under these laws. I object, too, on the grounds of revenue: we cannot spare some 2½ millions. I am aware the hon. Gentleman relies on a greatly increased consumption to restore that amount; and though the hon. Gentleman refers to sugar, coffee, tea, and spirits, I ask him to refer to the repeal of the beer tax; to former reductions in malt. When the duty was reduced from 4s. 6d., I think, in 1816, to 2s. 6d., no increased consumption took 911 place; and as I believe that no reduction would take place in the retail price of beer, I do not see that any increased consumption can be relied upon. For these reasons, Sir, and believing that the proposed reduction would be of no advantage to the agricultural interest, I shall oppose the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that although the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) was different in form from that which the House had lately rejected, every argument which had been adduced in its favour was brought forward when the Motion for a total repeal of the malt tax was discussed. That Motion was negatived, as the House would recollect, by a majority of nearly two to one; and though his hon. Friend had not brought himself within the the rules of the House by the terms of the Motion which he had submitted to it, it was in substance and in spirit the same which had been rejected; and the hon. Member for Petersfield (Sir W. Jolliffe) grounded his support of the present Motion upon the assumption that it was a stepping-stone to total repeal. The hon. Member for Petersfield had, however, given a very good reason why the House should not agree to the Motion—namely, that the expense of collection would remain the same even if half the duty were remitted. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had stated before, that no similar amount of taxation was raised so cheaply as the malt tax. Having so recently stated his views on the general question in answer to his hon. Friend the Member for the North Riding (Mr. Cayley), be confessed he felt in some little difficulty, because he was unwilling to repeat to the House the arguments which he had applied to that Motion. The hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Freshfield) had very properly asked what was the substitute which must he adopted for the malt tax. No man could be sanguine enough to suppose that 5,000,000l. of taxation could be dispensed with immediately, or within a year or two, without a very large amount of taxation to supply the deficiency. Hon. Members on the other side of the House had said that the first tax which ought to be repealed was the income tax, and he was sure that hon. Gentlemen who expressed a wish to repeal a tax of that kind, producing 5,000,000l. annually, could not be so inconsistent as to vote for the remission of half the duties on malt, which, instead of leading to the 912 repeal of the income tax, would very probably double it. Only last night the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), representing the great party who sat on the opposite side of the House, had announced his intention of taking the opinion of the House, whether in the present state of the revenue there should be any further reduction in the taxation. He confessed he was not quite satisfied with the substitute proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Alcock). He very much doubted whether the agricultural interest would be much benefited by the exclusion of a rich and beneficial manure from this country: for it should be observed that his hon. Friend proposed to put on an import duty to the full extent of the present cost of the article; a proposal which, if carried out, would prohibit the introduction of Peruvian guano at all. He would only say, with reference to the total repeal of the malt tax, that the House bad already decided that question; and as to the partial remission of the duty, he thought it was not very likely to afford relief, either to the producer or to the consumer, but that it would go into the pockets of those gentlemen who intervened between the consumer and the producer, namely, maltsters and brewers. The price of malt was one-third lower than it used to be, and yet be did not find that cither pale ale or bitter beer was at all lower than it used to be. The hon. Member for Derby's beer was undoubtedly good; but somehow or other, he (Mr. Bass) continued to keep up the price of the article. He had been looking that morning at the evidence given by Mr. Baker, of Writtle, one of the most strenuous advocates for the repeal of the malt tax, before the House of Lords. He was asked, "Who got the 8,000,000l. taken off the malt duty?" The answer was, "The manufacturers—that is, the maltsters; the price of barley did not rise, and the price of beer did not fall." Under these circumstances he did not think that it would be wise in the House to sacrifice for nothing a revenue of 2,500,000l.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
expressed a hope that the hon. Member for Derby would not divide the House. No man had voted more steadily than himself for the total repeal of the malt tax; but its partial remission would neither diminish the expense of its collection, nor remove the restrictions which it imposed upon agriculture, or on brewing at home. In short, it would afford none of those indirect advantages which the 913 agricultural community valued almost as much as the benefit which they would derive from the removal of the pecuniary burden. He should also beg the hon. Member (Mr. Bass) to recollect that those who might vote with him had no prospect of a substitute for the amount of revenue which they would sacrifice. For his part, he should much rather support the partial reduction of a custom duty, than of an excise duty, because a reduction in the former case would lead to a diminution in the staff for collecting the customs, while no such advantage could be obtained by the partial repeal of an excise tax.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
said, the arguments used by some hon. Gentlemen in favour of the repeal of the malt tax, were with him the strongest arguments for resisting it. He contended that beer was not a necessary of life. The hon. Member for Derby bad argued that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not lose by the proposed remission, because the consumption of beer would be increased. Did the hon. Member mean to say that double the present quantity of beer would be drunk? If so, it would lead to extensive demoralisation. The establishment of beershops and dram shops had so perverted the minds of the people that they called evil good, and good evil. It was but the other night that he beard in that House an eulogium on whisky. It was well known that one half the crimes committed in this country and in Scotland were occasioned by the use of intoxicating liquors. He maintained that there was more nutriment in two penny worth of bread than in a shillingsworth of whisky or beer. In his opinion there was no better mode of raising a revenue than by taxing these articles, and he should be very sorry to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer give way in any degree by reducing the duties upon them.
MR. HENRY DRUMMOND
The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down did not seem to know the grand difference between whisky and beer. It was the difference between whipcord and a feed of oats. Whipcord did not add to the strength of a horse, but a feed of oats did. He objected to the remission of half the malt tax, because the loss of income was a clear evil, without any corresponding benefit in the suppression of beer shops, which the repeal of the whole tax would effect. This tax, which prevented people brewing their own beer, drove them into the beer shops, and there was not a little trumpery hamlet of ten or twelve 914 houses without one. Whenever there was a cottage to be sold, the capitalists in the towns bought it up at an enormous cost, and converted it into a beer shop; and that was the way in which the morals of the people were debased. He wished to take the question entirely out of the hands of the Excise, and to allow every labourer and every other person free right to brew his own beer. That would preserve the morals of the people, and nothing else would.
§ MR. HUME
was glad that the discussion had had the effect of showing that hon. Gentlemen opposite were convinced that the present system of taxation could not go on much longer. He differed from the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton), and was of opinion that the use of beer in moderation gave more strength to our population. He hoped the hon. Mover would not press his Motion, because all the benefit would go into the pockets of the brewers. He should, however, have been ready to support the entire repeal of the tax; and he would tell the House how it could be done. Let them reduce their establishments—the soldiers from 100,000 to 60,000, and the seamen from 40,000 to 25,000, which was the number a few years ago. He believed the time was fast approaching when they must go back to that standard, for the tendency of things was every day setting more and more in that direction.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
did not agree with the hon. Member for Salford in thinking that the poor labouring man could live upon cabbage water. He considered good wholesome malt liquor was absolutely necessary for him. But he did not think this Motion would afford any essential relief to the agricultural interest, whose distress could only be effectually remedied by proper import duties on foreign articles. He believed the day was not far distant when protection would again be restored, and then all the free-traders who had forgot their duty to the people, would have to go and hide themselves.
§ MR. BASS
, in reply, said, he believed that the adoption of his proposition would occasion no loss, but rather an increase, to the revenue, as had been the experience of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to all articles on which the duties had been reduced. With regard to the observation of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton), he (Mr. Bass) wondered how he could venture to offer an opinion on that point, when he confessed that he 915 had never tasted beer in his life. He (Mr. Bass) was anxious to see a reduction in the malt duty, in order that the brewers might be able to reduce the price of beer. The reduction in the price of barley rendered it difficult to make an equivalent reduction in the small quantities in which beer was generally sold. If the House should reduce the duty on malt, that would reduce the price of beer, and the consumer would have far more benefit than the reduction of duty amounted to.
Motion made, and Question put—
That on and after the 10th day of October, 1852, one half of the Malt Tax be repealed.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 31; Noes 76: Majority 45.
|List of the AYES.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Bennet, P.||Keating, R.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Lewisham, Visct.|
|Child, S.||Meagher, T.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||O'Connor, F.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Prime, R.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Salwey, Col.|
|Cubitt, W.||Scholefield, W.|
|Drummond, H.||Spooner, R.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Stanley, E.|
|Forbes, W.||Urquhart, D.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Galway, Visct.||Wakley, T.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Williams, W.|
|Halford, Sir H.||TELLERS.|
|Hallewell, E. G.||Bass, M. T.|
|Halsey, T. P.||Alcock, T.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Granger, T. C.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T.||Grey, R. W.|
|Bell, J.||Harris, R.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Hatchell, rt. hon. J.|
|Bentinck, Lord H.||Hawes, B.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Heyworth, L.|
|Boyd, J.||Howard, Lord E.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Hume, J.|
|Bright, J.||Humphery, Ald.|
|Brotherton, J.||Kershaw, J.|
|Brown, W.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Carter, J. B.||Loveden, P.|
|Cobden, R.||Mackie, J.|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Morgan, H. K. G.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L|
|Crowder, R. B.||Mowatt, F.|
|Dawes, E.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Parker, J.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Perfect, R.|
|Ellis, J.||Pilkington, J.|
|Evans, J.||Price, Sir R.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Ricardo, O.|
|Fox, W. J.||Rich, H.|
|French, F.||Richards, R.|
|Geach, C.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Sandars, G.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Smith, J. B.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.||Wilson, J.|
|Stanton, W. H.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Stephenson, R.||Wood, Sir W. P.|
|Strickland, Sir G.||Young, Sir J.|
|Trelawny, J. S.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Verney, Sir H.||Hill, Lord M.|