HC Deb 25 June 1852 vol 122 cc1324-6

said, the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had that day stated, in answer to a question from the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Sir W. P. Wood) that the Treasury Minute of 1840 had not been rescinded, but that if it were rescinded it would be so done as not to interfere with the fair traders of the country. Now these words, however, plausible, and smooth, and soothing they might appear, he was afraid would carry dismay to the hearts of hundreds, he might say thousands, of honest traders in this country. He would not attempt to discuss the question now, but he could only say that the trade looked upon any alteration with the greatest possible alarm. He had before him a memorial from the trade to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject. [The noble Lord then read extracts from the Memorial, deprecating any alteration.] Under these circumstances he appealed to the Government, whether, considering that this question received a very full investigation and underwent repeated discussions in that House, which divided upon it twice, and in both cases rejected the Motion of the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) for the rescinding of the Minute—he asked if it was right to make such an alteration as this, without giving an opportunity to those concerned in the trade of stating their case fairly, and having it discussed in that House; and whether it would not evince a greater regard for the interests of all concerned if the question was put off till the beginning of the text Session?


said, he could not agree to the principle that a Treasury Minute depended on the Votes of that House. If that were the case, the whole business of Parliament might be stopped. A Treasury Minute was made under the sanction of an Act of Parliament; and if they wore never to make a Minute without the sanction of the House of Commons, that would put a stop to the whole administration of the country. With regard to this particular point to which the noble Lord had alluded, the Treasury Minute had not been rescinded, and if it were it would not leave the law in the same state as it was before the Minute was passed. It would be necessary, of course, that the Minute should be formally rescinded; but at the same time when it was rescinded, the Treasury would give such instructions to the Office of Inland Revenue as would leave the trade in a very different position from what they were in before the Treasury Minute in question was issued. Before the issuing of that Minute a dealer was not permitted to have Chicory upon his premises at all; but if the alterations now under consideration were resolved upon, the trade would be entitled to have any amount of Chicory whatever upon their premises, and to sell it under certain regulations. The change would not be made until the dealers had had time to sell off their stock of adulteed coffee; and when the Treasury Minute was altered, he believed it would be altered in a manner that would not disturb or injure the fair trader.


said, he believed there were many parties who liked Chicory mixed with their coffee; but the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer was perfectly correct in saying that a Treasury Minute depended upon the discretion of the Lords of the Treasury, provided they kept within the existing law; and it was in their power to make or rescind any such Minute. But there was a Treasury Minute existing for eleven years, founded upon this principle—that whereas previously to the issuing of that Minute it was impossible for an honest dealer, when the prohibition of mixing Chicory and Coffee was enforced—it was impossible for the honest dealer to carry on his trade honestly and fairly. They were met at every step by those who mixed Chicory with their Coffee; and the Treasury, from 1832 to 1840, was overwhelmed with applications and representations from the most respectable classes of grocers in the country on the subject. [The hon. Gentleman read part of a memorial to the Government from certain dealers in Liverpool respecting an Excise prosecution for breach of the Treasury Minute.] He considered that the Government should sanction no interference with traders upon the part of officers of Excise in such cases as that he had just mentioned, for the answer to the memorial stated that the Lords of the Treasury did not think it was a fraud upon the revenue so long as the Chicory paid proper duty. That was a point which he thought the Government ought to look to. He must complain of the Government availing themselves of almost the last day of the Session to make this new arrangement, for he looked upon it as legislating without giving any notice; and all he asked was, that they would leave the question till Parliament met again to discuss and decide upon the matter. It was no light matter to men who had made their establishments on the calculation of a Treasury Minute which had been in force for eleven years; and he thought it would be almost an act of spoliation upon those parties to change that arrangement without giving due notice.

Subject dropped.