§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
said, that whilst he had possession of the House he would put one other question. He understood from the newspapers that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated yesterday, in answer to the question of the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Mullings), that he had read the evidence taken before the Committee of which he (Mr. C. Anstey) was Chairman, and that that evidence warranted him in taking a particular view of the matter. The question was, as to the expediency of the reduction of the duties on wine to a minimum amount. No publication of the evidence had taken place; it had not indeed been laid upon the table till to day. Was he (Mr. C. Anstey) right, then, in supposing that the whole proceeding was most irregular; that the hon. Member for Cirencester had no right to put the question; and that the right hon. Gentleman had no right to answer the question, with reference to a Report not then formally made to the House? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was reported not only to have made this premature reference to an unpublished Report, but also to have gone so far as to say that neither the present Government nor any future Government would be warranted in recommending to Parliament a reduction of the Duty on Wines. Was such a reference to a document not officially laid before the House proper in a Minister of the Crown?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, an hon. Gentleman had last night asked him whether he had heard of a rumour that it was the intention of the Government to lower the Duties on Wine to 1s. a gallon. That question was not put to him with reference to the evidence taken before any Committee; and in his answer he stated that he had not heard of the rumour—that it was not the intention of the Government to act according to that rumour—and that he trusted there never would be a Government that would act in accordance with it; but that opinion was 961 not given with reference to any evidence Whatever, though subsequently he did state that there had been a Committee on the subject. As the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. C. Anstey) had talked of the question being concocted between him and the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Mullings), he begged to say that he was in error in that supposition. An hon. Gentleman connected with the City of London, of which he was one of the representatives, had intended to make the inquiry, and gave him notice that he would do so; but some circumstances with which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was not acquainted, prevented that hon. Gentleman from following out his intention, and the inquiry was made by the hon. Member for Cirencester. In his reply he had expressed himself not very fully, but still he had stated very explicitly what the feeling of the Government was, because on all questions connected with commerce it was of importance that there should be no doubt or uncertainty. He stated that the Government had no intention whatever to make any alteration in the Duties on Wine, and that the great increase of consumption anticipated from a reduction of duty he thought exceedingly fallacious, and would require a complete revolution in the tastes and habits of the people of this country. He also said, that if it was in the power of Government to deal with a surplus revenue so as to permit them to reduce taxation, the Wine Duties were not among those imposts that they would be inclined to remit.
§ Motion agreed to; House at its rising to adjourn till Monday next.