HC Deb 03 August 1854 vol 135 cc1288-93

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.


moved the following Resolutions— That from and after the 1st day of August, the Duties of Customs chargeable on the Goods, Wares, and Merchandise, hereafter mentioned, imported into the United Kingdom, shall cease and determine, viz., Sulphate of Potash. That from and after the 1st day of August, in lieu of the Duties of Customs now chargeable on the articles under-mentioned, imported into the United Kingdom, the following duties of Customs shall be charged, viz.: Arms, Swords, Cutlasses, Matchetts, Bayonets, Gun Locks, Cannon, or Mortars of Iron, not mounted nor accompanied with carriages, 2s. 6d. the cwt., Cannon or Mortars of brass, not mounted nor accompanied with carriages, 10s. the cwt., Cannon or Mortars, mounted or accompanied with carriages and other fire arms, viz., Muskets, Rifles, Carbines, Fowling pieces, or Guns of any other sorts not enumerated, and Pistols, for every 100l. value thereof, 10l. Ammunition, &c. namely, Shot, large and small, of lead, 2s. the cwt.; of Iron, 2s. 6d. the cwt. Rockets, and other combustibles for purposes of war, and not otherwise enumerated or described, for every 100l. value thereof, 10l. Hops, until the 1st August, 1855, 1l. the cwt.; from and after that date, 2l. 5s. Iron and Steel, wrought or manufactured, except Arms and Ammunition, viz., Machinery, Wrought Castings, Tools, Cutlery, and other manufactures of iron or steel, not enumerated, 2s. 6d. the cwt.; Fancy ornamental articles of iron and steel, 15s. the cwt.


asked upon what principle the proposed hop duty of 1l. per cent until the 1st of August, 1855, and 2l. 5s. per cent after that date had been framed?


said, that there had been reason to anticipate a great scarcity and high price of hops. This would have an injurious effect upon those interested in the growth and sale of barley, as well as upon the consumption of malt, and the large revenue which depended upon that consumption. A scarcity being anticipated, Parliament had been invited to do that which in cases of scarcity it generally did, sometimes by immediate reference to the House, and sometimes by the discretion of the Government, with the subsequent approval of Parliament, to remit for a time a portion of the duty, in order to facilitate in times of exigency the supply of a necessary article to the consumer. He had seen three Gentlemen representing the county of Kent upon this subject, and at that period the proposition was, that the duty should be reduced until the 1st of November, 1855. They represented, however, that that would be going beyond the occasion, and he had yielded to their representations, and had altered the date to the let of August, 1855, so as, he thought, completely to remove their objections. He believed that those Gentlemen were satisfied with the alteration.


said that, some years ago, the Customs duty upon hops had been 12l. 10s. per cent. It had then been reduced to 8l. 11s., then to 4l. 10s., and it now stood at 2l. 5s. The Excise duty, during the same periods, had remained the same, and he believed that it was the only tax which had been never either mitigated or repealed since 1805. In 1834 the appearance of the hops was much worse than at present; and, although it was expected that not more than 3 cwt. or 4 cwt. an acre would be produced in Sussex, some of the plantations there had produced more than a ton an acre. There was always much speculation as to what the duty on hops would be, and at that period the old duty had been put down at less than 60,000l., whereas it produced nearly 190,000l., and the old and new duty together produced 329,941l. He disapproved of the lowering of the Customs' duty, unless the Government agreed to a corresponding lowering of the Excise duty to four-ninths of its present amount. A reduction of the duty on foreign hops would be unjust towards the English planter, unless accompanied by such a reduction. From information he had received from the hop plantations in all parts of the kingdom, and from the great improvement which had taken place during the last ten days, he believed that the crop would turn out very different from what had been expected a fortnight ago. He had not brought forward his usual Motion for a repeal of the excise duty on hops this year, in consequence of the war, but his opinion with respect to it remained unchanged. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that hops be omitted from the Resolution.


denied that he had expressed himself satisfied with the explanation which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given him, as he had pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of also lowering the excise duty if he reduced the import duty on foreign hops. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he had no intention of making a permanent alteration in the duty this year, and he supposed be would not have departed from that determination had he not been justified by some extraordinary circumstances. It was not possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or any other person at the present moment, to form a judgment upon the probable crop of hops until a very advanced period of the year. In 1849 the duty paid was only 75,000l., but no interference was then thought necessary. He had this morning received a letter from a person in Kent well acquainted with hop plantations, who said that a very great improvement had taken place in them within the last few days, and that, in his opinion, a duty of from 80,000l. to 100,000l. would be paid if this weather continued. He, therefore, contended that the right hon. Gentleman was justified in calling for the alteration he now proposed. Supposing it were necessary that something should be done, were the grounds of the right hon. Gentleman fair and just towards all parties? Why was the relief to be given entirely at the cost of the home grower, and the advantage, if any, that attended the measure, be put into the hands of the foreign grower? The consumer would get nothing by the proposed change. The foreign grower would be the only gainer. If, however, the state of the crops justified the change, the right hon. Gentleman might carry it into effect by means of an Order in Council.


contended that all the advantage of the proposed reduction of duty would benefit the holders in bond, and that neither the revenue nor the country would derive any benefit from it. The lowering of the duty had caused great dismay throughout the hop districts, and would, if sanctioned, have the effect of throwing the hop grounds of the country out of cultivation. He thought the right hon. Gentleman ought not, without great deliberation, to come to any decisive determination on this subject. When the Excise and Customs duties were combined he considered it was a wise arrangement; and that was the opinion of those hop-growers whom he represented. As to the Customs duty, it had from time to time been lessened to a great extent, whilst nothing was taken from the Excise duty. They were now about to inflict a blow on an interest in a state of panic. They were, in fact, about to take a crutch from a falling man. It took two years to prepare a hop ground, and the hop-growers were now in great doubt, owing to the measures of the Government, as to what course they ought to pursue. [The hon. Gentleman read several letters, detailing great improvements that had taken place this year in the growth of hops all over the country.] He would leave the matter in the hands of the Government, but hoped the measure would be modified.


felt satisfaction at seeing that the county of Kent thought the hop duty was a bad one, as evidenced by the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down; for that was what it proved, if it proved anything. He would support the proposal of the Government, because, at length, he saw some prospect of the duty being done away with altogether. The hop duty had no beneficial effect whatever in any district except the county of Kent. He was a hop-grower in the county of Sussex, and he felt sure that the Sussex hop-growers generally would feel grateful to the Government for the reduction.


said, this was not a Kentish question alone. He was connected with the county of Worcester, and there the feelings of the hop-growers coincided with those in Kent, and felt it was most injurious to them to have these tamperings and sudden changes made at the end of a Session, by which the whole trade was affected. There was a strong suspicion current that although the consumer would not benefit by this change, there were a large number of persons who were holders of foreign hops, and who would benefit largely by the alteration; amongst whom he supposed, was the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass), having observed him to be in close communication with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary to the Treasury, but hoped those Members of the Government would not be carried away by the blandishments of the hon. Member for Derby. He thought there was no adequate ground for the reduction, and he hoped either that he would reconsider the question, or if a reduction in the foreign duty was necessary, that he would answer that other proposition they had to make to him, namely, a similar modification of the Excise as of the Customs.


said, that the measure had been introduced at the instance of the officers of the Inland Revenue. The right hon. Gentleman said the reason for the measure had been removed by the improvement which had taken place in the probable yield of the crop. In 1852 the duty was 244,000l., and the price was 4l. 5s. per cwt. In 1853 the duty fell to 150,000l., and the price rose to 11l. 11 s. What then would be the effect if it fell again to 80,000l., or 100,000l., which was the most flattering estimate that had been made. It was quite a mistake to suppose that the hop-growers were losers by bad crops. On the contrary they were large gainers by a deficient yield in consequence of the enormous increase of price. The reduction of the duty, however, 1l. 5s. would just render it possible to introduce the fine Bavarian qualities. The effect of the proposal would only be to place hops for a single year on exactly the same footing as every other article of home production, and surely such a modest proposal ought to receive the support of the House.


said, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not take the responsibility of reducing this duty as the crop progressed, it was asking a great deal of the House to expect them to relieve him from the responsibility. He would be no party to a reduction of the Customs duty upon hops unless there was, at the same time, a reduction on the Excise duty.


admitted that there was not that scarcity of the crop that was anticipated. He regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not listened to the suggestion of his hon. Colleague (Mr. Deedes) to carry out the change by an Order in Council. The House at present were not in a position to legislate. If the crop should turn out as had been anticipated, and the right hon. Gentleman advised an Order in Council, he would have the support of all the hop growers.


thought it would be unsafe for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to wait, because the duty was not declared until the end of November, and as foreign hops came earlier than this, the opportunity would be lost of purchasing these hops. Seeing that hops were only grown upon 50,000 acres, while barley was grown upon 2,000,000 acres, he did not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to oppose the proposal of the Government to increase the quantity of hops available for the consumer.


was a representative of barley growers, and wished to see hops cheap. He was willing to vote for the reduction of duty on foreign hops, if the Government would only reduce the Excise duty.


asked the hon. Member for Derby if he had not betted that the duty would this year exceed 150.000l., and if he had not made that bet within the last few days? [Mr. BASS: Certainly not.] He believed the hon. Member fur Derby had betted upon this duty on former occasions, for the hon. Member had told him so himself.

Question put, that—

Hops, until the 1st of August, 1855, the cwt. £1 0 0
From and after that date, the cwt. 2 5 0

stand part of the proposed Resolution."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 61; Noes 21: Majority 40.

The remaining Resolutions were then agreed to, and the House resumed.

The House adjourned at Two o'clock.