HC Deb 27 April 1855 vol 137 cc1900-5

Order for Committee read.

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


said, he should not be doing his duty as an independent Member if he did not oppose the proposed increased duties on tea, sugar, and coffee. He believed that there was not a cottage in the United Kingdom in which this increased taxation would not be felt most grievously. Considering the high duties to which these articles were already subjected, he looked with alarm on the consequences of the measure proposed. Had the right hon. Gentleman raised 20,000,000l. on terminable annuities, and 3,000,000l. on Exchequer bills, there would have been no necessity for increasing the duties upon articles of daily and universal consumption. The natural decline of the tea duty had not only been suspended, but an additional duty had also been imposed, and the result of the increase of duty, together with the profit always charged on it by retail dealers, would be, that to those who purchased their tea in small quantities the price would be at least one-third more than at present. With regard to sugar, if the House had formerly stopped at a duty of 14s. per cwt. on Muscovado sugar, he thought that would not have been felt as very oppressive, but the duty having been reduced to a maximum of 10s. per cwt., all commercial arrangements for the present year had been based on that amount of duty; and the derangement caused to contracts by the present Bill would be most serious. He admitted that there had been an increase in the importation of sugar, but the profits of those connected with the West Indies had in many instances been scarcely remunerative. With respect to the coffee trade, he knew it to be in a very suffering condition. He should therefore move that the Bill be committed that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee," instead thereof.

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


said, he must express his approbation of the financial measures proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had shown great discrimination in apportioning the various items of additional taxation. Although he felt the greatest sympathy for the lower classes, still he thought it was not fair to exempt one class from direct taxation and throw all the burden of that taxation upon another.


said, he wished to ask the hon. Member for Glasgow, who, as he understood, proposed to raise 20,000,000l. by terminable annuities, how he proposed to pay the interest upon them. Any gentleman who could solve that problem would be justly considered a Financial Minister. He found that the objections in the House to any sort of taxation were so inconsistent that they answered one another; but if they were acted up to, there would be no revenue at all. He wished also to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for some information with respect to the increase which was made in the malt tax last year. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated that by a certain increase of the malt duty there would be an addition to the revenue of 1,600,000l. He wished to know if that estimate had been realised. He did not like duties on articles of general consumption, but he could not conceive how Government could propose a tax of 150,000l. on coffee, whilst, at the same time, they were taking off 190,000l. on newspapers. He did not see the necessity for taking off this amount. No one asked for it. Nobody complained of the impost; and, for his part, he confessed he liked the luxury of a good newspaper, and he thought this was a direct violation of the principles which had prevailed of late. It was an inconsistent system of taxation, and, in his opinion, a blot upon the financial scheme. He also wished to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer what amount of tea had been taken out of bond, as he had been informed that large quantities of tea and sugar had been taken out of bond lately. The country was anxious for information upon both questions—how much of the 1,600,000l. anticipated by the increased duty on malt imposed last year had been received, and how much tea had been taken out of bond, in anticipation of the increased duties which the Budget imposed.


said, that the three articles upon which die late Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed to levy an additional amount of duty were sugar, malt, and spirits. On sugar and spirits there had not been a diminution, but an increase in the consumption, notwithstanding the additional duty imposed. With regard to the malt tax, the result, so far as it could be at present ascertained, was less favourable. The accounts of the malt duty were in such a state that it was not possible at present to ascertain the result with accuracy, but it did appear that the result was less favourable than it was in the case of sugar and spirits. One cause of its being. so was no doubt the high price of barley during the last harvest. The produce of the malt duty had fallen short of the estimate, though the general estimate of his right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had been exceeded on the year to the extent of 1,000,000l. As to the remission of the newspaper duty, he thought it had been sufficiently discussed when the Newspaper Stamp Bill was before them. He had argued that the abolition of the compulsory stamp was not a fiscal question, and so regarding it he had not made it part of the Budget. The alteration was proposed on special grounds, and the House had sanctioned his proposal. The hon. Member had likewise asked whether a considerable amount of tea had not been taken out of bond for consumption shortly before the increase in the duty was proposed. A certain quantity had been taken out shortly before the Budget was introduced, but it was insignificant in amount.


said, if the people had been well informed on the subject of these changes, he was sure they would have preferred the income tax to indirect taxation. He protested against a system of taxation which not only deprived the poorer classes of their earnings, but diminished the sources from which their labour was made profitable. He objected to the injustice of this tax as an income tax upon the poorer classes, and as one which bore with tenfold force upon those who had large families.


said that, finding there were so few Members present, and much apathy on their part to prevent a press of taxation, he should, under the circumstances, withdraw his Motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put and agreed to.

House in Committee, Mr. FITZROY in the Chair.

Clause 1.


said, he thought the Budget was as good a one as could have been produced under the circumstances, had it not been for the tax upon chicory. He must complain that the tax was proposed and explained, not by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but by the Secretary for the Treasury. He considered that the tax was one of protection, but he did not see how it was to be collected. He thought some explanation ought to have been given before the tax was imposed. The tax was not alluded to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his financial statement, but it bad been placed on the Resolutions by the Secretary for the Treasury. He was not aware that this was the custom of the House, and he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would withdraw it.


said, if the hon. Member had paid attention to the question he would have found that there was no duty upon raw chicory, and the duty placed upon ground chicory was merely to prevent coffee being imported from abroad under the guise of chicory.


said, that the chicory must be ground before it could be used, and that there was then a duty upon it.


said, there was no Customs duty upon raw chicory imported from abroad, still less any Excise duty upon that grown in the country. An objection to the present state of the law, which had been forcibly urged upon him by a most influential deputation, was, that there was not sufficient protection for those interested in coffee against the competition in chicory.


would be satisfied if the words "or ground" were left out.


proposed to add to the clause the following words:— That the duties be made payable on coffee, sugar, &c., until the 5th day of April inclusive, which shall first happen after the end of twelve months from the date of a definitive treaty of peace with Russia; from which last-mentioned date the same duties shall be paid as were payable previous to the passing of this Act.


said, it seemed to him that the words proposed by the hon. Member would not have the effect which he intended. If it were the wish of the Committee that the additional sugar duty should be a war duty, it should be done by special enactment. It was better not to press the Amendment then, but to bring it up on the third reading.


trusted that his hon. Friend (Mr. Gregson), after the observation of the right hon. Gentleman, would withdraw his Amendment. He considered that the colonial interest should have some hope held out to it, that after the war it would be put on the same footing as before the war.


said, he thought they should not be anticipating these questions; but if they did, they should take as much care of the interests of the colonies as they did of foreigners.


said, he would suggest that the Government should undertake to introduce a clause on the subject to which the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Gregson) had referred.


said, he would, as it appeared to be the wish of the Committee, introduce a clause for the purpose suggested by the hon. Member.


said, he wished to point out the impolicy of imposing differential duties on sugar, and he must complain also, that this was often conducted so as to be more favourable to the London than the country merchants. Why should discriminating duties be put upon sugar any more than upon tea or coffee, which differed as much in quality? The sugar-producing colonies felt this grievance severely; and these colonists had no one to represent them in that House. Those planters who sent their sugar to market in a slovenly condition escaped with a low rate of duty, while those who produced fine sugars were taxed heavily. The duty, in fact, operated as a tax upon improvement. There was a large class in this country who had an interest in upholding this state of things, in order to give employment to refiners in London. Some kinds of tea were three times as valuable as others; but the same rate of duty was laid on all. Why was not the same course pursued with regard to sugar? It was said that sugar was taxed in proportion to the saccharine matter it contained, just as spirits were taxed in proportion to the amount of alcohol. But in the latter case there was a good reason for the distinction; otherwise the alcohol might be indefinitely diluted with water; but the saccharine matter in sugar could not be diluted or adulterated.

Clause agreed to, as were the remaining clauses.

In answer to Mr. CAYLEY,


said, he could not give any further information as to the produce of the augmented malt duty than had already been given.


said, he wished to call attention to sonic hardships that existed in the mode of taking securities from maltsters for the amount of duty payable. They were required to give security for double the amount of duty; and their sureties, however responsible, were prevented from selling any portion of their estates while their bonds were in force—on the ground that the Government held a claim over the whole. He hoped the Government would afford some relief on these points.

House resumed.