HC Deb 08 August 1853 vol 129 cc1477-82

Order of the Day for going into Committee of Ways and Means read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


rose to bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice. On a former occasion, when he had brought forward a similar Motion, and was near carrying it, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had glided like a spectre into the House, and while delivering himself of a long speech sent his scouts out about town; and having collected such a number of his supporters as showed him that he must be successful, had succeeded in defeating the Motion by a small majority. He (Mr. Ball), though he had not been fully heard on that occasion, did not think that he should have brought the subject forward again, had it not been that he had been informed by influential persons that the Ministers had been un- happy at having been deprived of his speech; and that being so, he thought him self bound to give it to them on the first opportunity. He was the more disposed to do this, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer had answered arguments he had never used, and had utterly misunderstood the whole case. The peculiar aptitude of the right hon. Gentleman in this respect was pretty well known; but he (Mr. Ball) had not been prepared to find him supposing that the Motion was for the repeal of the malt tax, and the abolition of 5,000,000l. of revenue. He had no such intention; what he had asked was that some small relaxation of the malt duty should be granted to the producers of malt. This was a demand just and reasonable in its nature, and which, while it would prove a great boon to the agriculturist, would be in a very slight degree detrimental to the revenue. It would realise the old adage, "giving is getting," and by conceding it the Chancellor of the Exchequer would ultimately benefit the revenue, while he increased the resources of the country and the means of supporting the people. He could cite the authority of eminent statesmen who had declared their opinion that, in consequence of the ruin of the Protectionists by admitting foreign corn producers to compete with them, the malt tax ought to be abandoned. He did not, however, ask that, but he thought a modification of the tax should be made, which would cheapen the production of meat. The corn laws had been abolished, and it would have been fair to urge that the malt tax ought to be abolished also. But the repeal of the malt tax was not the present proposition. The case laid before Parliament was this: Provisions of all kinds were dear. Allow the agriculturists the means of making them cheaper. Meat was dear; let malt, then, be cheap. The English grazier had to contend with the foreigner, who grew his grain and dealt with it as he pleased, applying it to the feeding of his cattle, anti thus bringing them into the market cheaper than the English farmer could, who was restricted in the use of the grain he grew. What was asked, then, was, that the English farmer might be permitted to use malt in the feeding of his cattle, and thus be enabled to produce meat as cheaply as he could. It was an immense advantage to the foreign farmer that he could prepare and apply his barley as he found best. Allow the English farmer a similar advantage. It was a great griev- ance that he was actually not allowed to use his barley, made into malt, freely in the fattening of his live stock, though it was found that it was the food best fitted for the purpose. This he could not do without first paying a duty of 100 per cent upon it. It was not fair to the consumer, while it was peculiarly unfair to the producer. It was an injustice which could not be tolerated as consistent with the principles of free trade. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that experiments had been tried which convinced him that the farmer would derive no benefit from the boon demanded. But he trusted he might be permitted to say that the farmer was the best judge of that, and might be allowed to know how he could best produce meat cheaply. And there was this great inconvenience—that inferior barley, not fitted to be made into malt for the purposes of brewing, might be very well made into malt for the feeding of cattle, but could be not be so used, and this was practically often lost to the farmer. It was important, also, with a view to this question, to consider the present position of labour. Ordinarily there was a redundancy of labour, but now the reverse was the case. Strikes were taking place everywhere, and there was a deficiency of labour, and no class of labourers were more depressed and worked harder than the agricultural labourer. It was desirable, therefore, to mitigate the hardship of his position by allowing the agriculturists to produce food as cheaply as they could. Let the farmers be enable encouraged to produce good beer for their labourers, that they might recruit their exhausted strength with a more wholesome beverage than they could procure at the public-houses, where they were seduced into drunkenness, which exposed them to physical and moral destruction. The highest moral considerations should lead the Legislature to encourage the farmer to brew good and cheap beer. All the English farmer claimed was that under free trade he should be as free as the foreigner was, and be allowed to find the best and fittest food he could for his cattle, in order that he might in his own markets be able to compete with the foreigner. The result of this would necessarily be to cheapen meat and beer, and promote their consumption. It was most desirable to do this, for there was certainly scarcity in every article of provision; and there was every prospect of a deficient harvest, bad in quantity and quality—in addition to which we had hardly any corn in granary, for it was one of the results of the repeal of the corn laws that whereas we formerly had usually 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l. of quarters of corn in store, we now had none laid up against the evil day. Then as to cattle and sheep, the supply was smaller than ever. There was a deficiency in animal as well as cereal produce. This was the present result of the vast experiment that had been tried, the ultimate issue of which no one could predict; and under such circumstances surely it would be wise to allow the agricultural producer to use his crops and raise his cattle as well as he could, and thus promote plenty and cheapness of provisions, and tend to banish discontent and distress from the land.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed— To leave out fron the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'in the opinion of this House, the Duty on Malt operates most injuriously to the community at large; that it greatly tends to increase the cost of animal and cereal food; that it promotes drunkenness, by withholding Beer from the labourer in his work, and driving him to the public-house; and that therefore it is expedient that the Excise regulations relative to Malt be relaxed,' instead thereof.


said, he entirely concurred in the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, and considering it, as he did, utterly unanswerable, he advised the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to attempt to answer it, for it would be difficult for him to do so, and it would be wiser for the right hon. Gentleman to promise to take the subject into serious consideration previous to the next Session. The importance of doing something with the malt duties ought to obtain the relief suggested.


said, that he had not the slightest intention of endeavouring to answer the speech of the hon. Gentleman, for this, amongst other reasons—that it was answered by anticipation. The hon. Gentleman was well aware that what he had to say on the subject was offered to the House on a former occasion; and although he certainly thought it was in general bad taste in a Member of that House to praise his own speeches, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) could not help saying that he had every reason to be satisfied with the result of the speech that he addressed to the House on that occasion. The hon. Gentleman had himself admitted that while a division before that speech would have terminated in his favour, such were the irresistible arguments which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) then adduced, that by the time he closed there was a majority against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. Under these circumstances he felt it altogether unnecessary to enter upon the discussion of the question on the present occasion. He would, however, promise to give to the question that consideration which had been asked by the hon. Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cayley).


said, he must reprobate the jocose way in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke on the subject, and would recommend him to recollect that it was not the force of his reasoning which had secured his success on the occasion referred to, but the number of his supporters, who had given him a majority against reasoning and against justice and good sense. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the "experiments" which had been tried under the auspices of the Government; but they were of the most absurd character. A couple of philosophers had conducted them, and having taken a couple of heifers just calved and full of milk, had tied them up by the neck and fed them on dry malt. Why, of course, that was not the sort of experiment likely to succeed. But practical men had found by experience that under proper management malt was the best food for fattening cattle. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been led to an opposite conclusion, all he could say was, that he had been grossly misled. It was of the utmost importance in more points of view than one, that the agriculturist should be allowed to use the produce of his farm for the purposes of production as he thought best. Would the manufacturers submit to be fettered by the Excise as to the raw material they used? By malting inferior barley into food for cattle, it would be made profitable, when, otherwise, probably it would be lost to the farmer, and this was a consideration of the more importance at the present period, when the supply of barley was likely to be large in quantity, but to a great extent inferior in quality. In a moral point of view, the proposed measure was important, because it would tend to draw the labourer from the beershops by enabling the farmer to brew good beer for his labourers. Under all the circumstances, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had consented to consider the subject, he would suggest to the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire not to divide the House, but to rest satisfied with having explained his case and secured this promise.


said, on a former occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer had certainly with success spoken against time and secured a majority; but, as to his arguments, they were fallacious, because founded on the worthless experiments of the "philosophers" who had taken two couple of heifers, two of whom were diseased. Could anything be more absurd? If the right hon. Gentleman really wished to get at the truth, he would have better experiments tried, and would particularly see that the effect of malt was tried on sheep. As a practical man, he (Sir J. Shelley) could assure him that he had been grossly deceived into imagining that the question was of no importance to the farmer.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had wisely avoided attempting to meet his arguments, knowing their weight. Acting upon the advice of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) he should not divide the House.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Ways and Means considered in Committee.

Resolved— That, towards making good the supply granted to Her Majesty, the sum of 10,634,087l. 2s. 4d. be granted out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Resolved— That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there be issued and applied to the service of the year 1853, the sum of 355,143l. 4s. 8d. being the Surplus of Ways and Means granted for the service of preceding years.

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