§ LORD NAAS
rose to move—That this House do immediately resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the present mode of levying the Duties on Home Made Spirits in Bond.It was, in effect, the same Motion which he had the honour to submit to the House last year, the principle of which was affirmed by a majority of the House on two occasions, and which was rejected the third time by a narrow majority of one. He did not desire to make any reduction in taxation, or to interfere with that surplus which was a subject of such gratification to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The claim was one of simple justice, which should not be determined by the general state of the revenue, but on its own inherent merits. He knew it was a subject of a somewhat dry and uninteresting nature, and perhaps one of intricate detail. However, he trusted the House would give him its attention while he would state, as clearly as he could, the grounds of his Motion. The complaint he had to make on the part of those interested in Irish spirits was, that the duty was levied, not on the quantity of spirits that went into consumption, but on the quantity originally measured into the spirit receiver, or what was technically called the worm-end, so that if the spirits were left for a considerable time in bond, the owners had to pay a duty on a considerable quantity that had been lost by waste and evaporation; so that in point of fact the distiller and spirit trader had invariably to 605 pay duty, in the case of bonded spirits, on an article which was actually not in existence when the duty was paid. The distiller is the only manufacturer in this country subject to such a restriction; no other manufacturer pays duty on an imaginary article. In his own trade, too, he is exposed to unfair competition with the manufacturer of foreign spirits. By the Customs regulations the Dutchman may bond his gin, the Frenchman his brandy, the West Indian his rum; but he will pay, not on the quantity as placed originally under the Queen's lock, but on the amount as it goes into consumption; so that the home distiller and trader is subject to a loss which invariably occurs from leakage and evaporation, from which the foreign producer is totally exempt. Now, what were the objections to this just demand? They were merely these, that it was an unsettlement of a great question as arranged in 1848; that it would occasion considerable loss to the revenue, and open a door to fraud. Now how was this great settlement made? The House must remember that the distillers and spirit dealers were no parties to that arrangement. The decision of the Government was come to in consequence of the report of the Committee on Sugar and Coffee Duties, of which Lord G. Bentinck was chairman. There was no Irish Member on that Committee; there was no Irish witness called; the case of the distillers was only introduced incidentally, and in fact the whole matter was settled without reference to the spirit question at all. The House would understand him, when they heard the opinion of the Chairman of that Committee, delivered in July, 1848, when the House was in Committee on the Rum Duties. Lord G. Bentinck said—There was one point which the Irish Members were entitled to have placed before the House, and that was, that the Committee of which he had been chairman had inquired into the question of the Rum and Spirit Duties only incidentally; that no Irish Member was upon the Committee; that no Irish witness was called, and that consequently the distillers were entirely unrepresented.But look to the report of that Committee. He found four sets of resolutions submitted to the Committee, and out of these four only one alluded to the distiller's case at all; that one was proposed by Lord G. Bentinck, rejected by the Committee, and the one ultimately adopted never alluded to the subject at all. He thought that might be taken as a proof that the distillers were no parties to the settlement which had 606 been come to on this subject. But, assuming that the measure of 1848 was a settlement of the question, and that the distillers were satisfied with it, what was the basis on which it was made? There was a differential duty between colonial and home-made spirits, but it was not made in any degree by way of protection; it was merely laid on as an equivalent, and a very inadequate equivalent, for the restrictions and disadvantages under which the home distillers laboured on account of the laws enacted for securing the revenue. The differential duty between the colonial and home-made spirits was 4d. per gallon. Now, the Member for Westbury said last year, that the duty on decreases formed a considerable item in the calculation on which that sum was determined; but what was the fact? The decision of the Government was come to in consequence of the statement of Mr. John Wood before the Committee; and what were the items of his calculation? Malt duty, 1½d.; increased plant, 1d.; excise restriction, 1d.; duty on decreases, ½d—4d. So this considerable item has dwindled to ½d., or one-eighth of the whole. But though the distillers thought that the 4d. duty was very inadequate recompense for the disadvantages under which they labour, they had no wish to alter the arrangement. If this differential duty is to be made a bar to their just claims, let the Chancellor of the Exchequer take his ½d., reduce the differential duty to 3½d. in accordance with the views of his own Chairman of Inland Revenue, and do not make that any longer a plea for the continuance of an injustice. But it has been said that this measure, if carried, would open a door to fraud. This is most absurd; not only would every safeguard now adopted by the revenue be left in force, but many new means might be taken to secure it. There is nothing in this plan which would prevent the same mode of measurement being practised as it is now. But other means might be taken; for instance, the spirit receiver might be placed itself in bond, and many other means might be taken, which are not now possible, to secure the safety of the revenue, and the honesty of officials. At all events, the allowance for decreases would, doubtless, greatly encourage and increase the practice of bonding, which is admitted the greatest possible safeguard to the revenue. It was said, that the adoption of the plan he advocated would occasion a considerable loss to the revenue. He had never heard of any calculation as 607 to the probable amount of that loss, and he believed it was a mere matter of speculation. His opinion was, that so far from any loss being sustained, if that plan were adopted, the revenue would be a considerable gainer. It would cause a great increase in the consumption of whisky, and that without any increase of intemperance, because the sort of spirits which would then come into consumption would be very different from that which was now consumed in the three kingdoms. The people would have ripe and proper spirit instead of the raw crude stuff, which they were now obliged to consume. With regard to the export trade in spirits, it was well known that during last year it had considerably decreased; and so far from its being a thriving trade, he found by the returns that while, during the last month, the exportation of rum from the United Kingdom amounted to 65,000 gallons, no mention was made during the last year of any exportation of spirits. Throughout the return the article of home-made spirits, which might form a valuable portion of our export trade, was not once mentioned. In point of fact, the retention of the present duty amounted almost to a prohibition of the export trade in that article. Now, let the House hear what the opinion of the spirit trade is on this subject. They state in one of their circulars—It is seen that in the home market the foreign and colonial producers have every advantage over the home manufacturer, and as regards the export trade the latter is not a whit hotter off. 'Tis true, compelled by the flagrant injustice of the case, the Government have attempted to stop the complaints of the injured parties by a sham concession. Whisky may now be exported, under the same regulations as affect rum and brandy—provided it he declared by the manufacturer when bonding the spirits that they are for exportation.This so-called relief is, however, not of the slightest value, for it is manifest that 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 most advantage. To be of the least use the plan must be carried out in its entirety. It was much to be feared, that the real objectors to this just demand were the English distillers. Why? Because they do not want it: they hardly ever bond at all—they sell their spirits hot from the still to the rectifier, and, therefore, cannot require it. There were only eight distillers in England, notwithstanding the enormous quantity of spirits consumed in this country. Owing to their being so few distillers, 608 they, in effect, possessed a monopoly of the trade, and they perceived that if the plan which he (Lord Naas) desired to see adopted were carried out, and the allowance granted to the Irish and Scotch distillers, it would considerably interfere with their monopoly. The noble Lord then read the following opinions of Messrs. Logie and Haliburton, Surveying-Generals of the Excise, which was delivered by them in 1833, when the differential duty was 1s. 6d.:—When spirits remain any time in the duty-free warehouse, they fall off in strength often as much as five per cent, and also fall short in quantity, in many cases to the same amount. The duty is, however, charged on the original quantity and strength stored; the distiller has, therefore, not only to pay the duty in the first instance for the quantity wasted in store by evaporation and leakage, but he has again to pay for the difference in strength between 11 or 25 per cent, and the strength at which the spirits were actually taken out of store. This we consider a very great hardship, and it should, in our opinion, be immediately remedied. The board are aware that the importers of all foreign and colonial spirits may bond them duty free, and when taken out of the warehouse the duty is calculated according to the quantity and strength each cask is then found to contain, although perhaps years under bond; we think it would be but just that this equitable regulation, which the importers of brandy, rum, and hollands have so long enjoyed, should be extended to the distillers of these countries; indeed, we consider it would absolutely be necessary, in order to protect them.The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War last year said, that this was a question which concerned the moral condition of the poor of Scotland, and that he could not give the proposition his support, because it would demoralise the people of that country by increasing intemperance among them. But so far was he (Lord Naas) from agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman, that his opinion was the measure would tend to improve the habits of the people of Scotland, because (as he had said before) the spirits they would consume would be of a better quality. He (Lord Naas) would be the last man in that House who would propose a measure which could, by any possibility, increase intemperance. But he felt convinced such would not be the effect of this measure. In bringing forward this question, he felt that he was pleading the cause of the poor man, for if hon. Gentlemen had seen, as he had, the constant employment afforded to the inhabitants of small counties by the existence of distilleries, and the ruin which had been occasioned by some of those establishments being thrown out of work, they would reflect before they 609 would oppose the Motion, having for its object the removal of a heavy restriction on so important a branch of industry. He hoped he had proved to the satisfaction of the House that the concession of this demand would not be an unsettlement of the question; that it was not likely to cause any great loss to the revenue; that it would not open a door to fraud; that it would encourage the export trade in spirits; that it would not increase intemperance; that it would give additional employment to the poor; and, lastly, that it would be a very important measure in an agricultural point of view, by increasing the markets to the farmer. He relied only on the justice of the case, and on that ground alone he hoped that the House would decide in favour of his Motion. The noble Lord concluded by moving, that the House resolve itself into a Committee, to take into consideration the present mode of levying the duty on home-made spirits in bond.
Motion made, and Question put—
That this House do resolve itself into a Committee to take into consideration the present mode of levying the Duty on Home-made Spirits in bond.
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, he felt bound to compliment the noble Lord (Lord Naas) for the clear and temperate manner in which he had brought his Motion forward; but as the question had been already settled by a Parliamentary Committee, and subsequently by the House, in consequence of the Report of that Committee, he did not feel it necessary to enter again at any great length into the subject. If there was one question more than another which engaged the attention of the Committee of 1848, it was the arrangement of the spirit duties. It was true no Irish distiller was examined before that Committee, nor was there any Irish Member on the Committee. When that Committee was appointed, it was not contemplated to make the spirit duties the subject of inquiry. That would fully account for the fact of there not being any Irish Member on the Committee. Although the original intention of the late Lord George Bentinck excluded the spirit duties from consideration, yet during the discussions which took place before the Committee, the rate of duty levied on colonial rum became so important a subject that the whole question of the spirit duties was necessarily involved in the inquiry. 610 Now, although no Irish distiller was examined, a Scotch distiller of great eminence and ability, and a person capable of giving the fullest information on the subject—Mr. Greig—was examined with regard to the Scotch distilleries; and, as he (Mr. Wilson) understood the noble Lord (Lord Naas) to place the claim of the Irish and of the Scotch distillers on the same principle, he thought their case could not have been left in better hands. With regard to the differential duty, although he believed the noble Lord (Lord Naas) was correct in his statement generally, yet he would find from subsequent discussions that ensued, that a more correct estimate was afterwards made as to the component parts of that 4d. which constituted that differential duty. Some misunderstanding had arisen as to the amount of deficiency of spirits in bond, arising from a considerable error in some returns which had been made to Parliament some time ago with regard to the deficiency in bonded rum. In those returns the average loss for a number of years was stated to be 3½ gallons in the 100, but on further examination it turned out that instead of 3½ it was 2½ gallons in the 100. Bearing this in mind, and taking the Scotch duty at 3s. 8d., the deficiency of 2½ gallons per 100 would amount to but a fraction more than 1½d. a gallon; and in the same proportion in regard to the Irish spirits, on which the duty was 2s. 8d. But taking the actual quantity of spirits warehoused in Scotland and Ireland in the year 1850, and estimating the deficiency by that of rum, it amounted in the one case to 11/10d., and in the other to 1⅛d. per gallon. Again, the Irish and Scotch distillers had the advantage of the allowance, not only on the spirits which actually went into bond, and on which the loss arose, but on that which went direct from the distiller to the consumer, and on which there was no loss at all. Of 11,500,000 gallons of spirits made last year in Scotland, only 7,300,000 went into bond, the other 4,200,000 having gone direct to the consumer. It was the same with regard to Irish spirits, of which out of 8,300,000 gallons distilled, only 6,295,000 went into bond. The noble Lord (Lord Naas) had referred to the local distress arising from the falling-off in the number of distilleries in Ireland, which he attributed to the undue competition of colonial spirits. He (Mr. Wilson) was aware that the number of distilleries had diminished; but the whole tendency 611 of manufactures was for the smaller to give way before the larger enterprises, consequent on the introduction of machinery and the additional demand for capital which followed. And this, he believed, was in point of fact what was occurring in respect to the manufacture of Irish spirits; for while the number of distilleries was diminishing, the quantity of spirits made was increasing enormously. In 1841, there were 82 distilleries in Ireland, and the quantity of spirits produced was 6,400,000 gallons; but in 1850, when the number of distilleries had fallen to 53, the quantity of spirits distilled had risen to 8,236,000 gallons. The noble Lord complained of the injury the Irish and Scotch distillers were suffering from the competition of colonial spirits in the home market. Now, he found that in 1847, the year following the change in the rum duties, the quantity of home-made spirits consumed in Ireland was 6,037,000 gallons; but, in 1850, after four years of competition at the reduced duty, it had risen to 7,408,000 gallons. So that in the face of this competition, which was said to be so unequal and so unfair, the consumption of home-made spirits in Ireland had increased by 1,371,000 gallons in four years. Then there was a complaint by the Irish distillers that their trade with England had fallen off. [Colonel DUNNE: Hear, hear!] He understood the cheer of the hon. and gallant Member. But let the hon. and gallant Member look to the trade as it had existed from 1841. In that year the export of spirits from Ireland to England was 350,000 gallons; in 1842 it was 294,000 gallons; in 1843 it was 384,000 gallons; in 1846 it rose from various causes to the enormous amount of 1,418,000 gallons; and though it had since fallen, as compared with that year of extraordinary demand, it amounted last year to 828,000 gallons—a very considerable increase on the average of 300,000 gallons, at which it stood eight or ten years ago. But let hon. Gentlemen inquire whether the decrease since 1846 had not arisen from an increase in the consumption in England of British spirits of other than Irish manufacture. There could be no ground for saying that Scotland was placed in a more favourable position than Ireland, yet he found that while the quantity of Irish spirits imported into England had fallen off, the import from Scotland had increased since 1846 from 1,900,000 to 2,600,000 gals., which more than compensated for the decrease in Irish 612 spirits. The total import of Irish and Scotch spirits had increased from 1842 from 1,900,000 to 3,400,000 gals., which was the quantity imported last year. But it was said that colonial spirits, at the low duty, was successfully opposing the British spirits in the home markets, especially in Scotland. In 1841, when rum was at the 10s. duty, the consumption of Scotch spirits in Scotland was 5,980,000 gallons; in 1850, when they had the competition of rum at the low duty, it had risen to 7,122,000 gallons. Where then was the pretence for saying that the low duty on colonial spirits was operating injuriously on homemade spirits? Taking the United Kingdom as a whole, he found that so far from the competition of colonial spirits showing any unfavourable result to the home producer, the result really was unfavourable to the colonial and favourable to the home producer. He did not mean to say the duty charged on colonial spirits was unfairly high; but there was no pretence for saying that the duty was so low that it operated injuriously on the home producer. In 1848 the quantity of home-made spirits distilled in England, Ireland, and Scotland was 22,202,000 gals.; in 1850, it was 23,862,000—an increase of 1,660,000 gals. in two years under the operation of the low duty on colonial spirits. Now what had taken place with regard to rum? In 1847 the consumption in the home market was 3,328,000 gallons; last year it was only 2,902,000 gallons, being a decrease of 426,000 gallons. With these facts before them, would any man say that the arrangement made in 1848 as to the rum duties was unfair to the home producer? The noble Lord had also referred to questions as between the Irish and Scotch distillers, and the English distillers; but the House could not well be engaged in a more delicate or difficult inquiry than into matters relating to the relative advantages of trade in the three countries. He (Mr. Wilson) believed he was correct in saying that while the Irish and Scotch distillers had the advantage of sending their spirits into this country without paying any duty in their own countries, and bringing it in here in bond, the English distiller was prohibited from sending his spirits either into Ireland or into Scotland. [An HON. MEMBER: No, no!] English raw spirits might be introduced into those countries, but not, he believed, compound spirits, which alone was consumed. Compounded spirit was certainly prohibited from going from this 613 country into either Ireland or Scotland; and was not this a great hardship? He therefore believed a very strong case of inequality might be made out by the English distiller, and that if there was any ground of complaint it was on the part of the English distiller, and not on the part of the Irish or Scotch distiller. For, what did he find? He found that the consumption of English manufactured spirits during the last ten years had been stationary, or something worse; for instance, in 1841 it was 5,900,000 gallons, and last year it was 5,800,000 gallons, or about 100,000 gallons less. Was there anything in that fact to induce the belief that the arrangements of the Excise had been more favourable to the English than to the Irish or Scotch distillers? The English distiller could make out a strong case, for, while his productions had been declining, the consumption of the home market of England had increased rapidly, as was proved by the export into this country from Ireland and Scotland. As a confirmation of this, he found that, while English spirits had gone back 100,000 gallons from 1841, there had been an increase in the same period of nearly 2,000,000 gallons in the Irish and 2,000,000 gallons in the Scotch spirits. Was there anything in this to make a man believe that the Excise favoured the English distiller rather than the Scotch or the Irish? Another complaint which the Irish and Scotch distillers made was with regard to the competition of rum. The duty charged upon rum was, in each division of the kingdom, 4d. per gallon more than the duty charged on the home-made spirit; and he understood the complaint they made was that this difference of 4d. was not sufficient to countervail the Excise restrictions. But he thought this complaint could not be well founded, because he had shown that, in the face of this competition, the quantity of Scotch and Irish spirits had increased more than almost at any former period, so that there was really no just ground for this cause of complaint. As far as regarded the falling-off in the amount of labour employed, he thought that complaint also was answered by the improvements in the manufacture. He had thus endeavoured to show that the complaints of the noble Mover of the Motion were unfounded. There could, in fact, be no doubt that, after the arrangement made in 1848, were the Irish distillers to succeed in obtaining an alteration 614 by which they would be still further benefited, the importers of colonial spirits, would have just cause to demand a corresponding reduction in the amount of their countervailing duty; and if that reduction, were obtained, then the relative position of the two parties would be the same as it was at this moment. He hoped the House would not listen to the Motion of the noble Lord, seeing that it could only end in the diminution of the spirit duty altogether, which was not the first duty they would concede, were they disposed to make any further reduction in the taxes of the country.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat had spoken of some arrangement agreed to in the Committee of 1848; but he (Mr. Reynolds) was not aware that any Irish or Scotch Member had been a party to that arrangement. The Scotch and Irish Members certainly never looked upon it as a settlement of the question. The hon. Member (Mr. J. Wilson) himself admitted that not one Irish Member was on the Committee of 1848, and not one Irish witness was examined before it; but, he added, that one Scotch distiller was examined before the Committee. That certainly was the crumb of comfort thrown out to the Scotch and Irish distillers by the great figure Member for Westbury. The hon. Member's speeches were remarkable for one thing—they were always full of figures. It was by the help of these figures the hon. Member thought he could succeed in persuading the Irish distillers that they were very indulgently treated. It was with utter astonishment he had heard the hon. Member quote figures which never had any existence except in his own fertile imagination. The hon. Member said that the loss from leakage and evaporation in Ireland was 1⅛d. Where had he got those figures? Then the hon. Member, crossing the Tweed, informed the House that the loss in Scotland from leakage and evaporation was 11/10d. He should like to know where the hon. Member obtained that information also, because he (Mr. Reynolds) was unable to find it in any documents to which he had access. He held in his hand something like an official document, it being a certificate respecting 12 puncheons of Irish whisky placed in the Queen's stores in Dublin, from which it appeared that the total deficiency on those puncheons was 142 gallons; and from an accurate calcula 615 tion that represented a loss of 8¼ per cent on each of the puncheons, and not 1⅛d. as the hon. Member for Westbury represented. The hon. Member, in attempting to explain the grounds on which the countervailing duty of 4d. was imposed on colonial spirits, had once stated that 1d. was for plant, ¾d. for another kind of plant, and 1d. for something else, and then he said that these items made up 3½d. of the duty, whereas they amounted to only 2¾d. It was well known that 3½d. of the 4d. duty was intended to meet the enormous expense incurred by the Scotch and Irish in comparison with the colonial distillers. It followed, therefore, that only one halfpenny was allowed for leakage and evaporation. What was the complaint of the Irish distillers? The manufacturers of 8,000,000 gallons of Irish spirits annually used 1,000,000 bushels of oats. A barrel of oats made 8 gallons of proof whisky. Now, what they contended for was, that if they put the Irish distillers on a footing with the manufacturers of foreign and colonial produce, they must emancipate the former class—the Irish distillers—and make Ireland an exporting country. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Wilson) in coupling Ireland with Scotland, did not give the relative figures; but he (Mr. Reynolds) had endeavoured to supply the gap. From a paper lately laid before Parliament, it appeared that Scotland sent yearly into England 2,600,000 gallons, whilst Ireland sent to this country only 800,000 gallons. There was a drawback upon malt, of which he knew Scotland availed itself to an extent far greater than Ireland was enabled to do. They had, however, passed an Act in 1848, enabling Irish distillers to bond spirits in England. But whereas the spirits bonded in Ireland was only liable to a duty of 2s. 8d. per proof gallon, that bonded in England was liable to a duty of 7s. 10d. And what was still more unjust—the Irish distiller was obliged to pay this high duty not merely on the quantity when it left the stores, but upon the quantity when it was placed there, making him pay, in fact, duty on the leakage and evaporation. The Irish distiller was thus placed in a much worse position than the Spaniard, the Portuguese, or the Frenchman, who was only obliged to pay for the quantity which was taken out of the stores, and not upon that which had leaked and evaporated. The case was harder than it at first seemed; for whereas the foreign brandy was mellowing and improving in 616 the stores, and was much more valuable when removed after five or six years, it was only charged duty upon what remained in the casks; but the Irish whisky had to pay duty in Ireland upon the full quantity, and had to pay duty in England upon the full quantity, however great the leakage and evaporation might be. Take the case of a 120 gallon vessel of Irish whisky. The distiller was obliged to pay duty on the whole quantity first measured as soon as it was taken into the stores, and it was obliged to pay according to its strength, so that though it might be 25 per cent above proof, and lose half its strength in storage, the distiller was obliged to pay according to its original strength, with (as he had already stated) no allowance for leakage or evaporation. The merits of the question, he maintained, lay in a nutshell, and ought not to be mystified in the manner which the hon. Member for Westbury had done—he had no doubt unintentionally. It had been said that this was a spirit dealer's question. He totally and entirely denied the truth of that assertion. It was a labour question and an agricultural question. He had been told that a number of the Irish representatives intended to vote against the Motion. He did not believe it. The Irish representatives, like the representatives of England and Scotland, differed among themselves upon political and religious questions; but the present question involved the prosperity of Ireland, and he believed it would be found that they were unanimous upon it. The Government had been already placed in jeopardy upon this question upon a former occasion, when they had but a majority of one. He trusted that to-night there would be a large majority against them, and that the Motion of the noble Lord would be carried.
§ MR. BONHAM CARTER
would oppose the Motion, on the ground that it would tend to confound the distinctions which had always hitherto existed between Customs and Excise duties—the duties in the latter case being paid at the earliest possible period, which was the simplest, the most economical, and the freest from fraud of any method that could be devised. He also opposed the Motion on the ground that at present the Scotch and the Irish distillers had a considerable advantage over the English distillers; and if this Motion were passed, it would give hem a still further advantage. He thought that if 617 there was a case for anything, it was for a Committee upstairs; but that it would be doing injustice to many parties if they affirmed the Motion of the noble Lord; and he should, therefore, give his vote against it.
§ MR. GROGAN
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken had argued against the opening of the market of England to the distillers of Ireland and Scotland. That was a strange argument to be used by those hon. Gentlemen who had opened the market of England to the whole world. Hon. Members who supported the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Naas) asked simply that the Irish and Scotch distillers should be put upon the same footing with the importers of colonial rum—that their spirits should be measured when they came out and not when they went into bond. The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. J. Wilson) had admitted the decrease or waste of spirits in bond to be about 1⅛d or 1/10d. The admission was of some importance, though accompanied by the declaration that it was accounted for in the 4d. of differential duty. He (Mr. Grogan) would on this matter refer to the evidence of Mr. Wood, Chairman of Excise. What did Mr. Wood say? Mr. Wood stated that the 4d. of differential duty between colonial and British-made spirits was just and right, because of the peculiar charges to which the latter were subjected. The British distiller had, first of all, the malt duty, which was 1½d.; then the increased expense of manufacture was set down at 1d.; and the restrictions to which the British distiller was subject, from which the colonial producer was exempt, were estimated to be compensated for by another 1d., leaving one ½d. out of the 4d., on account of waste and decrease in bond. Now if they received the statement of the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. J. Wilson), his noble Friend (Lord Naas) was certainly at least entitled to demand the difference between the 1⅛d. and the ½d. His hon. Friend (Mr. Reynolds) had, however, shown the diminution which took place in the spirits bonded at Dublin, and he (Mr. Grogan) could not understand how the hon. Member (Mr. J. Wilson) could reconcile that with his statement. The simple, narrow bearing of the whole question was this: if a puncheon of foreign brandy was bonded at Liverpool, and remained five or six years in bond, it was during that period mellowing and improving, and becoming more fit for the market, not at the expense of the 618 importer, because when taken out of bond he only paid duty on the then strength and quantity; but if a puncheon of whisky from Ireland was bonded at Liverpool in the same way, the duty would be paid on the quantity and strength when first manufactured, and not upon the quantity and strength when taken out of bond, though it would have decreased in the course of the five or six years, exactly the same as the puncheon of foreign brandy. Figures could not mystify the fact; that was the real state of the case. The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. J. Wilson) had endeavoured to place Ireland and Scotland in invidious comparison as to the growth of the spirit manufacture; but they were both complainants of the injustice they suffered under the Excise laws. They were not opponents on this occasion, but were, as last Session, thoroughly united against a common wrong; and if the amount of spirits manufactured had increased, there was a proportionate increase of the grievance. As to there being a more thriving trade in spirits, because the number of gallons manufactured had increased, notwithstanding the number of distillers had decreased, he thought it more advantageous that the manufacture should be distributed over the country amongst a large number of small distillers than consolidated in the hands of a few large capitalists. That was, however, beside the question. Ireland, which was an agricultural country, had in its agriculture been struck down by legislative enactments, and the question was, whether additional injustice was to be inflicted on its trade. What they asked for was, a slight modification of the Excise laws, which could not admit of fraud, but would place the Irish and Scotch bonder on the same footing as the bonder of foreign spirits.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON,
as a Member of the Committee on the Sugar Planting and Rum question, before which evidence and discussions of a most complex nature had been taken, wished to give the House the impressions left on his mind. He admitted what had been said with regard to the evidence of the Chairman of the Board of Excise; but he was always disposed to receive with considerable caution the statements of officials where revenue was concerned, and the statements of special interests when they came to Parliament, as in this case, to ask for an alteration of differential duties. His (Mr. Gibson's) impression was, on the whole, that as between colo- 619 nial rum, and Irish, Scotch, and English spirits, 4d. was a fair difference of duty to meet the disadvantages under which the British and Irish distillers laboured. Hon. Gentlemen who came forward on this question proposed that these disadvantages should be lessened, but that the 4d. of differential or countervailing duty should still be retained. Now if they did this, the House would very likely be occupied with complaints from the colonial rum producers, who would say that they had altered the former arrangement, and had placed colonial rum in England at a disadvantage as compared with Scotch and Irish spirits. If they increased this differential duty—this protection, as it were—he had not the least doubt that there would be such a complaint forthwith from the producers of colonial spirits. The spirit interest in the United Kingdom enjoyed great advantages. Hon. Gentlemen talked about the advantages conferred on foreigners; but let them look at the position of Irish as compared with foreign spirits. They had a duty of 2s. 8d. on Irish spirits; and how much was the duty on foreign spirits? It was 15s. a gallon. That was 15s. as against 2s. 8d.; and yet this was the very interest which pretended to be placed in a position of great difficulty, as if it did not already enjoy considerable advantages at the expense of the consumers of this country. A penny had been considered a fair recompense for the decrease of the spirits in bond, and he (Mr. Gibson) thought the remaining 3d. formed a reasonable compensation for those Excise restrictions imposed on Irish, Scotch, and English distillers, to which colonial producers were not subject. Under these circumstances—until inquiry were made, and evidence taken to show that the Committee which had considered the subject had formed wrong impressions—he must give his vote against the proposal of the noble Lord (Lord Naas). If that proposition were carried, he (Mr. Gibson) must look upon it as tantamount to little less than a demand on the part of the distillers to have protection in some degree as against the producer of colonial rum.
§ MR. HUME
said, that from the debate they had heard one would imagine that the question before the House was an Irish one; but he had to remind the House that Scotland was equally interested in the matter. Last year he had voted for the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Naas). That Motion was simply this: that Irish 620 and Scotch whisky should be placed on the same footing with French brandy, Dutch gin, and Jamaica rum. It was unreasonable on a matter of this kind to raise the cry of protection. Was it fair that the Frenchman, importing 100 gallons of brandy and losing 10 gallons, should be allowed to pay for 90 gallons, while the distiller placing the same quantity of whisky in bond, and losing also 10 gallons, should be charged on those 10 gallons he had lost. He could not understand why Her Majesty's Government resisted the putting of Ireland and Scotland on an equality with the colonies and foreign countries in this matter. With these views he should certainly vote with the noble Lord (Lord Naas).
§ SIR GEORGE CLERK,
though connected with Scotland, would not give his vote for the Motion of the noble Lord. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) must remember that since he first came into Parliament they had had to deal with the difficulties of permitting an intercourse in the trade in spirits between the three portions of the United Kingdom—England, Ireland, and Scotland. Owing to the necessity of raising different rates of duty, and the different modes in which the duty was assessed, it was perfectly impossible, even for those acquainted with the mystery, to tell what was the proper equivalent to charge on spirits removed from one part of the United Kingdom to another. In 1825 the difference of duties in the three parts of the United Kingdom was removed, and consequently there were no longer obstacles to a free intercourse in the trade in spirits. That was a boon to Scotland and Ireland, from which they had derived the greatest benefit. But, in addition, they were allowed to warehouse the spirits for an indefinite period, and were not called on to pay the duty until the spirits were taken out of bond for the purpose of being sold and coming immediately into consumption. A special part of that agreement for warehousing spirits was, that the amount of duty should be charged, not on the principle which regulated Customs duties, but according to the quantity ascertained when the spirits were manufactured. He should regret to see that arrangement disturbed; he had heard nothing in the arguments urged by the noble Lord (Lord Naas), or by the hon. Member for the city of Dublin (Mr. Reynolds), to induce him to consent to any alteration; and believing the alteration proposed would be unjust to the Eng- 621 lish and colonial distillers, and probably injurious to the Irish and Scotch distillers themselves, by driving the English distillers to interpose impediments to the free intercourse between the three parts of the United Kingdom, he should vote against the proposition.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
thought it was perfectly clear that the hon. Gentlemen who had just sat down did not represent a Scotch county. His arguments were most fallacious. The hon. Gentleman on the Treasury bench (Mr. J. Wilson) had stated that the arrangement had existed three years, whereas the last speaker had gone back twenty-five; but he did not think the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Clerk) bad made out any better case; for rum also paid the duty when taken out of bond, and yet the allowance was made to it which was denied to whisky. Then, again, one supporter of the Motion had stated the estimated decrease of the spirits in bond at ½d., while another had stated it at 1d. per gallon. He would, therefore, leave them to settle the difference between them, and he was sure that the House would put very little confidence in the statements which either of them had made. The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. J. Wilson) had taken notice that he (Colonel Dunne) had cheered him; but he had done so for two reasons: first, because he had admitted the general distress of Ireland; and, secondly, because he had admitted that the spirit markets in particular were considerably lower. The hon. Gentleman had made his comparison between the present period and the year 1841; but then every one knew that 1840 and 1841 were the years in which the temperance movement took place, and in which a considerable decrease had resulted from that cause. But, he would ask, why had not the hon. Gentleman taken the year 1839? He then would have found that 12,000,000 gallons of Irish spirits had been bonded, while now the annual return was little more than 7,000,000. He thought that the Irish Members and the House could not trust much to the arguments of the hon. Member for Westbury, or of the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson); and still less to those of the right hon. Member for Dovor (Sir George Clerk). It was simply a question whether the Irish distillers should be charged duty on a quantity which did not exist. He should support the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Naas).
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
could not say that he quite agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his view of the nature of the question. The question was not at all whether it was right to charge the Irish and Scotch distillers in a particular way; but whether they ought to make any change in that mode of levying the excise duties which, it was agreed by the common consent of all persons conversant with the subject, was the fairest and the safest, namely, the uniform system, which as the right hon. Member for Dovor (Sir George Clerk) had stated, was established for the benefit of the Irish and Scotch distilleries, because, without that uniformity, it would have been impossible to permit that free interchange which took place throughout the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. J. Wilson) had mentioned—and the House would perfectly agree with him—the utterly opposite principle on which excise and customs duties were levied. The principle of customs duties was, that the payment should be delayed to the latest possible stage, whereas in excise duties it was desirable that they should be paid as early as possible in the manufacture of the articles, so that they might exempt the parties as quickly as they could from the supervision of the excise officer. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) who always appeared to be in constant fear of the exciseman, would not, he was sure, contravene that doctrine. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was not going to impute to the noble Lord (Lord Naas) any desire to encourage fraud; but still it must be apparent that his Motion would open a door to fraud, unless they were prepared to adopt more stringent measures than the noble Lord wished to propose. It had been said that it was a question to enable the Irish and Scotch distillers to import their spirits fairly into England. Now the real question was, whether the Irish and Scotch distillers should be allowed to keep their spirits in their warehouses as long as they pleased, and only to pay duty as it came out of the warehouse, instead of at the worm's end. Such a principle would open a great door to fraud; because, under such a system, all that could be abstracted and brought away without paying duty would be a clear gain to the distiller, whereas all that was abstracted now was a clear loss to them. It was quite true that no Irish distiller was examined before the Committee of 1848; but both English and Scotch 623 distillers were examined, and the evidence of the English distillers was clear upon the point that such a system as that proposed by the noble Lord would be most unsafe to the revenue. At present the interests of the owners of spirits in bond were identical with those of the Government; for they had just as much reason as the officers of the revenue to take care that no portion of the spirits should be abstracted while it was there. If, however, the owner should be made a gainer by every gallon that could be abstracted, it was clear that a great temptation to fraud would be created. It was evident, then, that if the Motion of the noble Lord were passed, it would become necessary, with a view to protect the revenue, that many facilities now enjoyed by the distillers should be withdrawn; and that distillation should be prohibited in many places where it was at present allowed. The noble Lord had stated last year that the whole of the Irish and Scotch distillers were ruined in 1848, and last year that they were considerably injured by competition with the colonies. Now if that had really been the case, the result must have been an increased consumption of colonial spirits, and a diminution in the home-made spirits; but the contrary had taken place, and the noble Lord had therefore shown great discretion in abstaining from a repetition of that argument; because, if he had not, the facts of the case would have utterly disproved his statement. There had been an increase in the consumption of Irish and Scotch spirits of 600,000 gallons; a diminution in rum of 140,000; and in foreign brandy of 300,000 gallons. The noble Lord (Lord Naas) had said it was not a case in which a question of revenue was concerned; but he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) begged entirely to differ from the noble Lord on that point. He must take leave to appeal to hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House upon this matter, since their decision on last Friday. Supposing everything was fair—that no fraud whatever was committed, it was quite clear that revenue to a considerable amount must be lost by the proposal of the noble Lord. If duty was to be received on a less amount of spirits than before, the revenue must be less; and a loss must take place in another way, for whatever concessions were made to the home distillers, to make up for the advantages which the foreign producer had, a corresponding concession must also be made to the colonial producer, 624 so that there would be a loss, at the same time, upon colonial spirits. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were anxious to repeal the income tax, and hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House were as anxious to reduce the window tax and the duties on foreign imports; but he appealed to them whether it was not equally desirable for them both not to meddle with this particular subject. He thought he might also appeal to the Irish Members themselves; for they, too, were interested in getting rid of burthensome taxes, and he would ask whether, on the whole, there could be a better tax than one on spirits? Nor could they say that they were unfairly treated, for while the English duty was 7s. 10d., the Scotch was 3s. 6d., and the Irish 2s. 8d. Were there not rather good grounds for saying that they ought to pay as much duty as the English? He did not propose to raise their duty, but he did ask the House to maintain what was already paid. He appealed to those hon. Gentlemen who were anxious that the revenue should be maintained, to remember that last week one very largo and important amount had been put into a state at least of some jeopardy. [Cheers.] Well, he was very sorry for it, because he thought that the finances of this great country should not have been endangered by such a vote; but it was, at all events, incumbent on them that those items against which no serious objections were entertained should be maintained unimpeached. It was the duty of them all to maintain the credit of the country, whichever side should eventually succeed.
§ MR. NAPIER
rose amid loud cries of "Divide!" He said that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had formerly said that no duty should be maintained which was perpetrating an injury. Now he believed the present Excise duty did work great injury, and he thought that the division of the other night had, at least, taught them this lesson—namely, that the House would not consent to any scheme of financial aggrandisement at the expense of justice; and it was because he considered that the present system was founded on injustice that he gave his most cordial support to the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Naas). It was very intelligible why so much stress had been laid upon the evidence of the English distillers, because it was not to their interest to support this Motion, but quite the reverse. It appeared from a recent return, that while the Eng- 625 lish had only bonded 11,814 gallons, the Scotch had bonded 7,000,000 gallons, and the Irish 6,000,000 gallons. Now, the bonding system was a boon chiefly to the smaller capitalists; and it was, therefore, evidently the interest of the great English monopolists (for there were only eight) to prevent the Irish and Scotch from taking advantage of the bonding system. The Irish distillers were now suffering a great injustice when colonial spirits had an advantage over home-made spirits.
§ MR. ALEXANDER HASTIE
said, he was rather astonished to hear the argument of the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. J. Wilson), who said that an increase in the consumption of Irish and Scotch produce was evident proof that the duties, which were levied upon them did not in any way limit that trade; for he was under the impression that he sat among Free-traders; and as Free-traders, they knew that England had prospered under protection, yet they advocated free trade, because they said it would increase her prosperity. When the same hon. Gentleman said the loss to the Scotch distiller was only 2½ per cent, and to the Irish distiller 3½ per cent, he must have been under the impression that the smallest of these was no great loss upon some trades, at all events. Another point which he attempted to make before the House was this: In 1847, he said the exportation of home-made spirits was so much, and in 1848–49 and 50, that it was greatly increased; but that hon. Gentleman must know that it was only in 1848 the Scotch and Irish distillers got the drawback on malt, which enabled them to take it into the foreign market. There was a fallacy also relating to the difference of 4d. in the duty on colonial and home-made spirits. The rum paid 3s. 8d. per gallon, and Scotch spirits 4s.; but the Irish were in much worse condition, for there the rum paid 3s. per gallon, and Irish spirits 4s. He hoped the House would support the noble Lord's (Lord Naas's) Motion.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he considered this a Motion in effect to reduce the duty on Scotch and Irish spirits. Now he thought it was perfectly obvious that, if the duties were originally fixed with a view that they should be charged in the way in which they were now charged, if they either diminished the duties by so much, or altered the way in which the duties were charged, so that they amounted to 2½ per cent less, in one way or the 626 other they diminished the duty on Scotch and Irish whisky. Therefore that was the plain question before the House. It might be a better way that all these Irish and Scotch spirits should only be charged after they had been a long time in bond. The objection to that was that it was liable to fraud; but supposing that objection not to apply, that might be a better mode than the present mode, but in that case they must arrange their duties accordingly. It was not the fact, as the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. A. Hastie) seemed to suppose, that where 4s. per gallon was charged on Scotch spirits, 3s. 8d. per gallon was charged upon rum. On the contrary, 3s. 8d. was charged on Scotch spirits, and 4s. on rum. And with regard to the statement made by the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Reynolds), who said was there not great unfairness if they allowed a different mode of paying the duty with regard to Irish spirits, and with regard to French brandy and Spanish rum, why, there was this to be considered, that while they were paying in Ireland a duty of 2s. 8d. per gallon, rum was paying 3s. and French brandy and Spanish rum were paying no less than 15s. per gallon duty; and therefore it was obvious that if they gave an advantage in this way to Scotch and Irish spirits, they must give a similar advantage to colonial rum, and Spanish rum, and French brandy. Then it came to a question of reducing the duty on spirits, and he did say, that as a question of revenue, that was not a duty he was prepared to reduce. He knew no other limit with regard to these duties on spirits than to have them not too high to encourage smuggling and fraud. He thought there could be no harm in having high duties on spirits, provided always they did not encourage smuggling and illicit distillation. Well, if that was not the case, and if, on the contrary, they found, as was pertinently observed by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. J. Wilson), that these Scotch and Irish spirits had gone on increasing in quantity, while English spirits had diminished, he thought that was a reason why the House should not diminish the duties. He must say he was against this change, in the first place, because he did not wish to diminish the duty on spirits generally; and, secondly, because he was not prepared to give an unjust advantage to the producer of Scotch and Irish spirits.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he should not have risen had it not been for the observa- 627 tions of the noble Lord. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) said he admitted the justice of the proposition of his (Mr. Disraeli's) noble Friend (Lord Naas), but he said it was not brought forward in a proper manner. Had it been brought forward to remedy a fault in detail, it might be considered; but as a proposition to reduce the duties on Scotch and Irish spirits, he could not for a moment entertain it. The noble Lord said they talked of the injustice to the Irish or the Scotch distiller being subjected to a taxation from which the foreigner was exempt, from which the Spaniard or the Frenchman was exempt; why, the Frenchman and the Spaniard paid a duty of 15s. per gallon. But the fallacy of the noble Lord's observation was this—that the duty is paid by the consumer. Now, what his (Mr. Disraeli's) noble Friend (Lord Naas) was pressing on the House was the injustice weighing on the industry of the producer. The principle which the Government wished to oppose was this—that to benefit the consumer the industry of the producer shall be subject to an unjust restriction. Now, he understood that the noble Lord and his Colleagues were opposed to these unjust restrictions on industry. The noble Lord at last found refuge in this fallacy. He said, "Although I admit the injustice, still you cannot deny that the trade has increased." But because the trade was prosperous, was that any reason why it should be subjected to an injustice? If it could be shown that the prosperity of the trade was in consequence of other circumstances, those circumstances were no argument against the proposition of his noble Friend (Lord Naas). It was founded on the principle of justice which the House had repeatedly acknowledged; and the remedy was easy, and he trusted the decision of the House, as on Friday, would show that this routine in public offices, by which stereotyped reasons were given to justify their proceedings, would receive another check.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 159; Noes 159.
|List of the AYES.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Bateson, T.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Bennet, P.|
|Arkwright, G.||Bentinck, Lord H.|
|Bagge, W.||Beresford, W.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Berkeley, hon. G. F.|
|Baird, J.||Bernard, Visct.|
|Bankes, G.||Best, J.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Blake, M. J.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Blandford, Marq. of|
|Boldero, H. G.||Lawless, hon. C.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Lennox, Lord A. G.|
|Brooke, Lord||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Lewisham, Visct.|
|Bruen, Col.||Lockhart, W.|
|Buck, L. W.||Lowther, Hon. Col.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||Macnaghten, Sir E.|
|Burghley, Lord||M'Cullagh, W. T.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||M'Gregor, J.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||M'Neill, D.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Maher, N. V.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Meagher, T.|
|Child, S.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Clive, H. B.||March, Earl of|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Conolly, T.||Miles, W.|
|Cowan, C.||Moffatt, G.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Monsell, W.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Moody, C. A.|
|Deedes, W.||Moore, G. H.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Disraeli, B.||Murphy, F. S.|
|Dod, J. W.||Napier J.|
|Duncan, G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Dunne, Col.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Edwards, H.||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Farrer, J.||O'Brien, Sir T.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||O'Connell, J.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Floyer, J.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Forbes, W.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Forester, hon. G. C. W.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Fortescue, C.||Power, Dr.|
|Fox, R. M.||Power, N.|
|Fox, S. W. L.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Freshfield, J.W.||Rendlesham, Lord|
|Frewen, C. H.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Reynolds, J.|
|Galway, Visct.||Roche, E. B.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Sadleir, J.|
|Gooch, E. S.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Goold, W.||Scully, F.|
|Gordon, Adm.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Somers, J. P.|
|Grace, O. D. J.||Somerset, Capt.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Spooner, R.|
|Grattan, H.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Greenall, G.||Stuart, H.|
|Greene, J.||Stuart, J.|
|Grogan, E.||Sullivan, M.|
|Halsey, T. P.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Hamilton, G. H.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Tollemache, J.|
|Hastie, A.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Henley, J. W.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Higgins, G. G. O.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Hildyard, R. C.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Hill, Lord E.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Whiteside, J.|
|Hotham, Lord||Wodehouse, E.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Wynn, H. W. W.|
|Langton, W. H. P. G.||Naas, Lord|
|Lascelles, hon. E.||Hume, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Hallyburton, Lord J. F.|
|Adair, H. E.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Harris, R.|
|Alcock, T.||Hatchell, rt. hon. J.|
|Anderson, A.||Hawes, B.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Henry, A.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Heywood, J.|
|Bagshaw, J.||Heyworth, L.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Hindley, C.|
|Baring, rt. hn. Sir F.T.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Bass, M. T.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Bell, J.||Howard, Lord E.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Hutchins, E. J.|
|Berkeley, Adm.||Hutt, W.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Jackson, W.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Bernal, R.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Blair, S.||Langston, J. H.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Lawley, hon. B. R.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Bright, J.||Littleton, hon. E. R.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Loveden, P.|
|Brockman, E. D.||M'Taggart, Sir J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. B. W.||Martin, C. W.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Matheson, Sir J.|
|Cardwell, E.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Carter, J. B.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Moncrieff, J.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Morris, D.|
|Cavendish, W. G.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Mowatt, F.|
|Clay, J.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|Clay, Sir W.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Norreys, Lord|
|Cobden, R.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Collins, W.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Parker, J.|
|Crowder, R. B.||Peel, Sir R.|
|Currie, R.||Peel, F.|
|Denison, J. E.||Perfect, R.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.T.||Pigott, F.|
|Divett, E.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Rice, E. R.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Rich, H.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Romilly, Col.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Ellice, E.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Estcourt, J. B. B.||Salwey, Col.|
|Evans, J.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.||Seymour, Lord|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Forster, M.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Fortescue, hon. J. W.||Smith, J. A.|
|Freestun, Col.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. M. T.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Grenfell, C. P.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Grey, R. W.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Thompson, Col.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Thornely, T.|
|Townley, R. G.||Willyams, H.|
|Trelawny, J. S.||Wilson, J.|
|Trevor, hon. T.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Verney, Sir H.||Wood, Sir W. P.|
|Vivian, J. H.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Watkins, Col. L.||Wyvill, M.|
|Wellesley, Lord C.|
|West, F. R.||TELLERS.|
|Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Wilcox, B. M.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Williams, J.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ Whereupon Mr. Speaker declared himself with the Ayes.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he wished to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, on the extraordinary circumstances in which the Government of the country were placed. The House of Commons had now assumed, he would not say without just cause, not only the supervision of the Government of this country, but the actual Government itself. [Cries of "Oh, oh!" and "Hear!"] He could understand the "Ohs" of some disappointed follower of Government. The Government had been obliged to make three efforts to govern the country and tax it, wherein all their plans were modified by the House of Commons. He appealed to the noble Lord himself, as a man who had been brought up in the notion of constitutional principles of government—who had been governed throughout by the idea that the House of Commons was the supervising power, marking its sense and opinion of the Government by its majority—he asked the noble Lord, was he in a position to govern this country? With the principles and wishes of the noble Lord, being, as he believed them to be, for the onward progress of the Government, was it wise, was it politic, to say nothing as to honour, to retain the power of the Government tinder such circumstances? [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] It was all very well to say "Oh!" but let them understand what was going on. At the commencement of the Session they were told that certain things were to be done as to the tariff of this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave an intimation of what he intended to do; and there was not one great mercantile concern in this country that had not been affected at the present time by the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman. Let not hon. Gentlemen suppose that this was a mere party matter. He was looking at it with reference to the country itself; and, if the House of Commons was so blind to the interests of the country as to keep them in that state, 631 hanging like Mahomet's coffin between heaven and earth, let the House of Commons have the responsibility. But he appealed to the noble Lord—he appealed to him, as he had the responsibility upon that occasion, not to lend his authority to that state of things. He said then, that any Minister who regarded not only the interests of the country, but his own personal character, would not lend himself to such conditions. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] It was all very well to say "Oh!" but he recollected an instance wherein the party of the noble Lord having put the Administration of the Duke of Wellington into a minority, one who was not now on the benches of the House of Commons certainly, but who had been exalted to the other House of Parliament, so soon as the minority was declared on that occasion, rose to ask the right hon. Gentleman, the late Sir Robert Peel, whether he was about to retain his Government after such a division. The noble Lord lived on minorities; but it was contrary to the interests of England, contrary to the spirit of our constitution, that any Administration should retain office by the difficulties of the opposition they met with—insulted every day by the conquests of that Opposition, and unable to advance in the principles on which the Government itself was founded. The noble Lord had now been defeated four times; and he would ask the noble Lord whether, upon those defeats on matters connected with the taxation of the country—on matters which were intimately connected with all our mercantile concerns—he thought it wise, under the circumstances, to continue in the position he held? He believed the noble Lord would more fully satisfy the desires of those who wished to advance the great principles upon which he supposed the noble Lord's Government was founded, if he said, "I will not lend myself any longer to such a state of things." If the House of Commons wished to take upon itself the administration itself, it ought to have the resposibility of finding an administration that would obtain a majority.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield has asked me whether I mean to retain office under the present circumstances? I believe he said he thought it injurious to the country that I should do so, and that the mercantile interests especially would suffer by that retention of office. The hon. and learned Member has a perfect right to put any question of this 632 kind with a view to the interests of the country; but he has given me certain advice with regard to my own personal character which I most respectfully decline to take. I thank him for his good intentions, but I will take care of my own personal character myself. At another period, at a period when the Government of this country was in abeyance, and those to whom it had been offered had not resolved to undertake the charge of forming a Government, the hon. and learned Gentleman said in this House that he wished me to consider that the interests of the cause of free trade were in my hands. What the hon. and learned Gentleman precisely meant, what was his object, I will not pretend to say; but of this I am fully aware, that the general interests of the country—not of free trade only, but the general interests of the country, its welfare and tranquillity—are very much dependent on the conduct of those who have at the moment the direction of public affairs. But I have not hesitated, when I thought the direction of affairs ought to be taken out of our hands, unless we succeeded in certain objects, to stake the existence of the Government upon those questions and upon those objects. I did not hesitate to do so when the question of the repeal of the navigation laws was before Parliament, and it was frankly declared that we were prepared for the consequences of a rejection of that measure; and it was perfectly understood we should have retired from office if that measure had been rejected. In the last year many hon. Members differed from the views that were strongly impressed on my own mind with regard to the efforts of this country as to the suppression of the slave trade; and I did not hesitate then to declare, that I would not retain office one day after the House had thought it right to give a hostile vote against the Government on that subject. But I think I have some right, in connexion with my colleagues, to consider what is the fitting opportunity for which I should retain office, and what is the opportunity when I should lay my resignation before Her Majesty. I am of course speaking independently of any direct question of a vote of want of confidence of this House, of which the result is perfectly plain and obvious, but I am speaking with respect to all other questions. In the beginning of the present Session, did I show any such anxiety to retain office as to make it necessary that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield should be my 633 monitor, and should inform me when the moment was come that I at his bidding should lay before the Crown my resignation? The hon. and learned Gentleman says this is the fourth time the Government has been defeated; but there is an observation which, although couched in very homely language, having been a longer time in the House than the hon. and learned Gentleman, I remember to have been made by the late Lord Castlereagh, and to which I may refer. That noble Lord, when leading a great party in this House, with respect to a vote to which the House had come against the Government for the repeal of the whole or a part of a tax, said, when we cheered very loudly on our triumph, "I advise hon. Gentlemen not to holloa before they are out of the wood." Now, let us observe, with respect to those defeats to which the hon. and learned Gentleman alludes, what they were. The first defeat on which we resigned office was with respect to the Bill of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King); but afterwards, when we returned to office, that question came again before the House, and the decision of the House was different from that which it had been originally, and the views I entertained were confirmed by a large majority. So that that first defeat was completely effaced by the subsequent division. On another occasion we were defeated on a question with respect to the management of the Woods and Forests; but that question is not yet decided, because it is not our intention to act on that resolution of the House, but to introduce a Bill similar in principle to the one we introduced last year, and the House will have an opportunity of deciding whether they will confirm the decision then come to by a majority of one, or whether they think our plan for the improved management of the Woods and Forests is one that ought to be entertained, and is preferable to that which the House at first resolved on; so that in the present state of affairs, although the hon. and learned Gentleman says we have been four times defeated, it appears that one of those defeats has been followed by a victory over those who were the cause of that defeat, and that the second is not yet decided. I come now to the third—the division which took place on the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume). I do not consider that that division was of the nature of which the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke, namely, a division declaring 634 that the House meant to take the Government into its own hands. I consider that all those questions of taxation and burdens are questions upon which the House of Commons, representing the country, have peculiar claims to have their opinions listened to, and upon which the Executive Government may very fairly, without any loss of its dignity, provided they maintain a sufficient revenue for the credit of the country, and for its establishments, reconsider any particular measures of finance they have proposed. We come now to this question which the noble Lord (Lord Naas) has carried by the vote of Mr. Speaker. Upon that question I might repeat the observation to which I have already referred; because I remember that last year the noble Lord was equally successful; but nevertheless he did not finally alter the law on this subject; and I believe in the end the House of Commons will be of opinion either that the Motion of the noble Lord is not one to be adopted, or that, if adopted, it must lead to some arrangement of the colonial duties so as to place colonial duties on the same equality with Scotch and Irish duties. That being my opinion, I certainly shall not tell the hon. and learned Gentleman, in accordance with his request, made with that suaviter in modo which always distinguishes him, what other course I propose to take on the present occasion. These matters are matters of very grave import. The character of the Government ought not to be sacrificed, or even impaired, by submitting to frequent defeats without declaring that they could no longer carry on the Government of the country. At the same time, on the other hand, no one will deny that the resignation of the Government in the present circumstances of the country involves very grave consequences. Some may think them consequences of great good fortune; but, whether of good fortune or bad fortune, no one can deny that very grave and important consequences must follow, not merely to the question of free trade, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman once alluded, important as that is in itself, but with regard to many other questions of domestic and foreign policy, which must be affected by a change of the Government in the present circumstances of the country. All I can say is, that I trust those who have generally supported us and taken our views with regard to public policy, will give us credit for weighing on every occasion what is required by 635 the situation in which we are placed, and that while we are not disposed, on the one hand, to allow the character of the Government to be impaired and worn away in our hands, it is, on the other hand, from no sense of affront or pique that I shall propose to come to so important a decision as that of resigning our office with a view to a change of the Government of this country. It is not a question to be merely discussed and bandied about in debate, but it is a question for grave consideration. I must ask the House to leave it to us to make that decision, and making it, as I shall do, with a view to the welfare of the country, I shall not have to reproach my own conscience with having deserted the interests I am bound to support.
§ House in Committee; Mr. Bernal in the chair.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
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 and 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 hundred 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 months, and not exceeding twelve months, four gallons; and for every additional six months, one gallon.
§ MR. HUME
begged to offer his approbation of the reply of the noble Lord at the head of the Government to the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck). It would put an end to the proceedings of the House of Commons if the Ministry were to resign in consequence of their being defeated on a question of this kind. After the decision to which the House had just come, and after Mr. Speaker had by his vote given an opportunity for another trial, he submitted to the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) that, as many Members had left the House not expecting that there would be another division, it would be far more consistent with the dignity of his situation to allow the Resolution to pass, and to take the opinion of the House upon the subject again, upon a future occasion, when they 636 had had notice that it would come before them.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
would leave the matter entirely in the hands of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Naas) who made the Motion. He thought, however, that it was perfectly fair to take another division upon this question. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] He did not wish to take any unfair advantage, but he could not see what objection there could be to another division, as he believed the House was now fuller than when the last division took place.
§ LORD NAAS
thought the reason assigned by the noble Lord for proceeding to another division was the very worst he could have put forward. The noble Lord said the House was now more full than when the division took place, but that division took place in a House when hon. Members had been attentively listening to the debate. He had been present the whole evening, and he had never seen upon a question of this kind a more attentive or a fuller House; and he thought it was rather hard of the noble Lord to ask for another decision on the question, when many hon. Members who had come in since the division had not had an opportunity of bearing the debate. He must remind the noble Lord that a different course was taken last year. The Resolution which he (Lord Naas) then put into the Chairman's hand was not opposed; and he had concluded that the same course would have been taken on this occasion. He was satisfied if it had been known that the noble Lord intended to take another division, none of the hon. Gentlemen who had supported his Motion would have left the House.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, it was quite impossible for him to assent to the Resolution. The noble Lord must recollect that the circumstances under which he had carried his Motion now, were entirely different from those under which he succeeded last year. Last year the noble Lord had a majority of those hon. Members who agreed with him in opinion; but, on the present occasion, he had only had a majority from the vote of Mr. Speaker, who declared that he voted in conformity with the usage of the House, in order that they might be enabled further to consider the subject.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD moved that the Chairman report progress.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
begged leave 637 to state, for the information of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Naas) that in the event of the Chairman now reporting progress, he would not, when the question came on for discussion, offer any opposition to Mr. Speaker leaving the chair. He would consent that the debate should be resumed at the precise point where it had been left off.
§ LORD NAAS
expressed his willingness to accede to the proposal of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, on the understanding that the noble Lord had stated that no ground should be lost in the progress of the debate, but that the question should be resumed at the point where it had been left off.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report progress; to sit again on Friday.