HC Deb 15 July 1856 vol 143 cc903-34

* At the commencement of each Session of Parliament, since I have had the honour of a seat in this House, I have given notice of a Motion for a reduction of the duty charged upon foreign and colonial wines; and upon two occasions I have been favoured with the indulgence of the House in being permitted to lay before it, at considerable length, the arguments and evidence in support of my views. I will now, if the House will grant me its further indulgence, endeavour to compress into as short a compass as the magnitude of the subject will admit of, the various important considerations which are involved in the matter; and I will, as upon former occasions, divide the subject into three distinct parts—namely, revenue, moral and social points, and international advantages. Without going into the origin of this particular duty, which is of considerable antiquity, and which has been varied in amount at different times and for various objects—sometimes for regal, sometimes for fiscal, and sometimes for interest to promote commercial intercourse with particular countries—I will confine myself to the measures that have been taken in reference to the matter in recent times. In consequence of the progress which free trade measures had made in public opinion as well as amongst most parties in this House, the subject of the wine duties attracted considerable attention in the year 1852, and a Committee of the House sat for a period of seven weeks, collecting information relating to the various interests which would be affected by an alteration; and I think I may confidently refer to that evidence as proving that the present high duty prevents an increased consumption—that a lower duty would produce a larger revenue—that the use of wines would tend to diminish the excessive drunkenness and consequent immorality which prevail in this country—and that a diminished duty would tend to enlarge and extend the commercial relations with foreign countries, and to strengthen and consolidate the mutual, amicable, and material interests which follow in the train of the ties which would thus be created. I shall not trouble the House by quoting from the two Blue-books particular evidence for each of the heads referred to, though I may say that witnesses in every way qualified to give weight to their opinions, clearly established the views I have stated. Convinced that it was only necessary to bring the question under the notice of this House, to insure it a fair consideration, I ventured to do so early in the Session of 1853, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford filled with such distinguished ability the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Referring to the reply given to me upon that occasion by that right hon. Gentleman, it appears to me that, possessing a most complete know- ledge of everything connected with the subject, he was disposed to view a reduction with impartiality, if not favour; but being engaged in such extended and beneficial reductions in various other branches of the national revenue, affecting the comfort and welfare of the people, he did not feel justified in effecting any alteration in this particular tax; and I did not hesitate to withdraw the Motion, to submit it at a more opportune period. Since the right hon. Gentleman has been out of office, if I mistake not, from an expression he used last Session, when he designated the "Wine duties the scandal of our tariff, by which nine-tenths of the produce of Europe are excluded from our markets," he entertains an opinion adverse to the present rate of duty. Early in the Session of 1854, I again brought the subject under the notice of this House, having in the previous autumn accumulated a vast amount of information in the wine countries of Europe, and having conferred with several distinguished authorities in France, Spain, and Portugal, by which my convictions in favour of a reduction, were strengthened and confirmed. It happened, unfortunately, that at the period when I was engaged in presenting the question for discussion in this House, there were strong indications of that war with Russia which soon afterwards broke out; and, therefore, considerations affecting the public service induced me to avoid any debate, which, at that time, might have been a source of embarrassment to Her Majesty's Government. I, therefore, simply placed on record a statement of the material facts. During last Session the continuance of the war prevented my giving any impulse to the subject, though I retained a notice on the Journals of this House, ready at any moment to bring it forward if a termination of the war should render it practicable; and I have the authority of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, intimated last Session, if I am not mistaken, in admitting that, if peace should be restored, this question would be a fit and proper one for discussion in the House of Commons; and I trust, from what transpired at a recent interview I had, on introducing to the noble Lord a deputation of more than ordinary weight and influence, representing great interests in the country, that Her Majesty's Government will be disposed to give to the question a candid and impartial reception. As to revenue, it is a remarkable fact, that whilst in all other consumable articles a steady increase has taken place, especially where a diminution of duty has occurred, the wine duties show little advance, notwithstanding the increase in population and wealth, as also the desire of most classes to indulge in the use of wine. This, if compared with the steady progress in the consumption of spirits, shows a remarkable and, I think, unfortunate result. By a Return moved for by the hon. Member for Kildare county (Mr. Cogan), it appears that:—

Population being Gallons of spirits consumed.
In 1802 15,506,794 15,596,370
In 1811 17,630,185 17,380,580
In 1825 20,853,151 22,433,615
In 1831 24,046,837 26,738,203
In 1846 26,715,920 28,352,027
In 1851 27,452,262 28,760,224
Taking the consumption of wines during the same interval, I find, by a Return I obtained in the Session of 1854, the following results:—
Population. Gallons of wine consumed.
In 1802 15,506,794 7,113,416
In 1811 17,630,185 5,629,722
In 1825 20,853,151 8,009,542
In 1831 24,046,837 6,212,264
In 1846 26,715,929 6,740,316
In 1853 27,452,202 6,813,830
So that whilst the consumption of spirits has been, as nearly as possible in the ratio of one gallon per inhabitant per annum, that of wine, which at the commencement of the century was at the rate of about half a gallon per inhabitant per annum, was in 1853, about a quarter of a gallon per inhabitant per annum, being a steady and progressive decrease in consumption with an increase of population and wealth. To show, however, how susceptible of increase the revenue has proved itself when decreased in amount, I will instance two remarkable proofs:—Mr. Pitt, in the year 1787, reduced the duty on French wines from 8s. per gallon to 4s., and Portugal and other wines from 4s. 6d. to 2s. 7d. per gallon. The result was—
Consumption in 1785 ……… 4,064,864
Consumption in 1790 ……… 6,601,038
Consumption in 1792 ……… 7,851,707
Being nearly doubled in five years. Mr. Huskisson lowered the rates in 1825 from 13s. 8d. on French wines to 7s. 2d., and on Portuguese and Spanish from 9s. 1d. to 4s. 10d. The result was—
Average consumption for five years before reduction 4,751,106
Average consumption for five years after reduction 6,741,855
As a branch of revenue, then, it would appear that the wine duties have reached their maximum, and that at the present rate it is vain to look for any increase. I will now, with the permission of the House, adduce some high authorities in favour of my views. Mr. Pitt, in a speech upon the treaty with France, 12th February, 1787, said— We had agreed by this treaty to take from France, on small duties, the luxuries of her soil, which, however, the refinement of ourselves had converted into necessaries. The wines of France were already so much in the possession of our markets that with all the high duties paid by us they found their way to our tables. Was it then a serious evil to admit those luxuries on easier terms? The admission of them would not supplant the wines of Portugal nor of Spain, but would supplant only an useless and pernicious manufacture in this country. He stated the enormous increase of the import of French wines lately, and instanced the months of July and August, the two most unlikely months in the year to show the increase of this trade. The Committee would not then see any great evil in admitting this article on easier terms. Blackstone (book 1, chap. 8), in speaking of the duties belonging to the Crown, has the following passages, which I think not inappropriate:— There is also another very ancient hereditary duty belonging to the Crown, called the prisage, or butlerage of wines, which is considerably older than the customs, being taken notice of in the great roll of the Exchequer, 8 Richard I., still extant. Prisage was a right of taking two tuns of wine from every ship (English or foreign) importing into England twenty tuns or more, one before and one behind the mast; which, by charter of Edward I., was exchanged into a duty of 2s. for every tun imported by merchant strangers, and called butlerage, because paid to the King's butler.

He goes on to say— But this inconvenience attends it on the other hand, that these imposts, if too heavy, are a check and cramp upon trade, and especially if the commodity

Quantities retained for Home Consumption in the United Kingdom in each year from 1852 to 1855.
Years. Cocoa. Tea. Sugar (raw). Coffee. Wines.
lbs. lbs. cwts. lbs. gallons.
1852 3,328,527 54,713,034 6,898,867 34,978,432 6,346,081
1853 3,997,198 58,834,087 7,272,833 36,983,122 6,813,830
1854 4,452,529 61,953,041 8,028,758 37,350,924 6,776,086
1855 4,384,748 63,430,693 7,254,222 35,764,470 6,295,487

Statistical Department, Board of Trade, April 10, 1856. A. W. FONBLANQUE.

bears little or no proportion to the quantity of the duty imposed."

He further adds— There is also another ill-consequence attending high imposts on merchandise, not frequently considered, but indispensably certain, that the earlier any tax is laid on a commodity the heavier it falls upon the consumer in the end, for every trader through whose hands it passes must have a profit, not only upon the raw material and his own labour and time in preparing it, but also upon the very tax itself which he advances to the Government: otherwise he loses the use and interest of the money which he so advances.'' Mr. M'Culloch, in his work on Taxation (vol. 2, p. 172), likewise says, speaking of the wine duties— Thus from 1821 to 1824, both inclusive, when the rate of duty on French wines was 13s. 9d. per imperial gallon, the consumption amounted to 171,838 gallons a year at an average. In 1825 the duty was reduced to 7s. 3d. per gallon; and during the subsequent four years the average annual consumption was 360,450 gallons! In these respects, indeed, there is no difference in the practical influence of oppressive duties, whether they be laid on the articles used by the higher, the middle, or the lower classes. They are uniformly pernicious and unproductive, whereas, moderate duties are as uniformly productive, inocuous, if not advantageous. Upon the last occasion that I brought this question before the House (14th February, 1854), I quoted Mr. Porter, Mr. Tuke, Mr. Poole, Mr. Short, Mr. Shawe, and other practical judges, whose opinions given in evidence before the Wine Committee were all favourable to a reduction of duty, as likely to increase consumption, and produce a larger amount of revenue. Indeed, the whole course of proceeding adopted by successive administrations, since the time of Sir Robert Peel, has been in favour of the policy of diminishing the import duties upon articles of foreign growth, and the result has been, as it was natural, a very largely increased demand for those articles. I will, with the permission of the House, illustrate this by reference to the articles of cocoa, sugar, tea, and coffee—

So that, notwithstanding the privations which must have ensued to some extent by the prosecution of the war, in all the articles of primary necessity, little or no effect has been produced, consumption having progressed; but with reference to wine, which more properly belongs to the wealthy classes of society, we see a stagnation. It is very well known that there are, in various parts of Great Britain, extensive establishments for the fabrication of British wines, which no doubt form a large part of the consumption of the lower-priced wines, but which has the effect of preventing any increase of duty by augmented importation. The adulteration of wines is notorious. Without troubling the House with many extracts from the Blue-book, I may refer to the evidence given by Mr. Bastick before the Adulteration Committee, who gave the recipe for making port wine— Cider forty-five gallons, brandy six gallons, good port eight gallons, ripe sloes two gallons; stow them in two gallons of water, press off the liquor, and add to the rest, if the colour is not strong enough, tincture of red sanders. In a few days this wine may be bottled; add to each bottle a teaspoonful of catechu, and mix it well; it will very soon produce a fine crusty appearance. The bottles being packed on their sides as usual, soak the ends of the corks in a strong decoction of Brazil wood with alum, which will, with the crust, give it the appearance of age, I will also refer to the following passage from the Quarterly Review of March 1855— The great mass of ports at a cheap and moderate price are made up, it is well known, of several kinds, and doctored according to price. There is one compound, however, which particularly claims our attention, 'Publican's port.' We are all of us familiar with the announcement to be seen in the windows of such tradesmen, 'Fine old crusted port, 2s. 9d. per bottle,' and the extraordinary thing is, that upon opening the bottle we often find that it is crusted, and that the cork is deeply stained. How can they afford to sell an article having the appearance of such quality and age at so low a price? The answer is simple. Wine, crust, and stained cork are all fabricated. There is a manufactory in London where, by a chemical process, they get up beeswing to perfection, and deposit it in the bottles, so as exactly to imitate the natural crust. Here corks are also stained to assume any age that is required. The wine itself contains a very little inferior port, the rest being composed of cheap French red wine-brandy, and logwood as colouring matter. Another species of adulteration, and equally pernicious, is that which is effected in the dock, under the name of "vatting," by which process different wines are mixed together for the purposes of sale. Many exposures of those practices have taken place recently. Since the introduction of the system of Free Trade by Sir Robert Peel, so ably followed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, I think we have abundant proofs of the wisdom of the system of reducing duties with a view to obtaining increased revenue—and the buoyancy of the national income, even during the prosecution of the war, shows the advantage of those measures. I wish, in respect to the article of wine, the same principle to be applied; and before I conclude I will submit to the House a proposal by which, I think, this reduction might be brought about, by a plan simple in its operation, calculated to meet the views of the trade, and to disturb as little as possible the amount of revenue received from that source. The second branch of this inquiry is a very important one. I mean the moral, sanatory, and social improvement, that may be expected from a more general use of wine; and although I have, upon former occasions, almost exhausted this portion of the subject by numerous practical illustrations, I will ask the House to permit me to urge this point on its earnest consideration by a few remarks from trustworthy sources. Adam Smith has the following remarkable passage in the second volume of his "Wealth of Nations," book iv., chap. 3— It deserves to be remarked, too, that the cheapness of wine seems to be a cause not of drunkenness, but of sobriety. The inhabitants of the wine countries are, in general, the soberest people in Europe. Witness the Spaniards, the Italians, and the inhabitants of the southern provinces of France. People seldom are guilty of excess in what is their daily fare. Nobody affects the character of liberality and good fellowship by being profuse of a liquor which is as cheap as small beer. On the contrary, in the countries which, either from excessive heat or cold, produce no grapes, and where wine, consequently, is dear and a rarity, drunkenness is a common vice; as among the northern nations, and all those who live between the tropics, the regions for example on the coast of Guinea. When a French regiment comes from sonic of the northern provinces of France, where wine is somewhat dear, to be quartered in the south, where it is very cheap, the soldiers, I have frequently heard it observed, are at first debauched by the cheapness and novelty of wine; but after a few months' residence, the greater part of them become as sober as the rest of the inhabitants. Were the duties upon foreign wines, and the excise upon malt and ale to be taken away all at once, it might in the same manner, occasion in Great Britain a pretty general and temporary drunkenness among the middling and inferior ranks of the people—which would probably be soon followed by a permanent and almost universal sobriety. The restraints upon the wine trade in Great Britain, besides, do not so much seem calculated to hinder the people from going, if I may so say, to the alehouse, as from goiug where they can buy the best and cheapest liquor. The sneaking arts of underling tradesmen are thus erected into political maxims for the conduct of a great empire; for it is the most underling tradesmen only who make it a rule to employ chiefly their own customers. I received the following important letter from a wine merchant of Bristol, named Wall, last year. He says— From my long experience as a wine merchant, the reduction of duties on all wines will be not only a popular measure, but will be attended with good moral results. My views are these—that the Chancellor might be inclined to get rid of the Motion upon the ground he cannot spare the revenue; that has been the cry of every Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when they have really reduced a duty they have not had a deficiency of revenue, but an increase. Well, if he will not reduce the duty at once, let him take off 1s. 6d. per gallon this year, and 1s. per gallon for the three following years, to commence 5th April next; if he cannot afford to give back so much revenue at once, let him, if he reduce the duty to 1s. pay back a fourth part every year for four years. Even this measure would be received gratefully, and whatever resolution may be come to, I hope, like sugar, the wine trade will know first and last their position. The continued expectation of duties being taken off, seriously interferes with the sale of wines, and even now parties will not pay duties till it is decided. That is a fair specimen of numerous letters which I receive from the trade upon this subject. The following is an extract from Mr. Ingham, the worthy presiding magistrate at one of the metropolitan police offices:— My experience in the police Courts has convinced me, that a very large proportion of the crime and misery which exist in England arises directly or indirectly from spirit drinking. I have no doubt that a plentiful supply of cheap wine would be found conducive to temperance. During many recent visits to Paris, and other parts of France, I do not recollect ever having seen a drunken man. If my position, as a paid magistrate, did not preclude my taking part in public agitation, I should be most happy to join your committee. I beg to assure you that I most heartily wish you success. A very intelligent and influential member of the wine trade (Mr. Thomas George Shaw) writes as follows:— In Scotland there is an association for the suppression of drunkenness, consisting of some of the ablest, as well as most energetic clergymen and laymen, who have been doing everything in their power for some years to put a stop to this evil, which in many places is destroying not only the mental, but the physical capacities of our northern brethren; but their total want of success has at length led the greater part of the society to the conviction that there must be some other substitute than tea and coffee, &c., and at this moment it is under deliberation whether they will not urge upon Government a reduction of the duty on wine, in order that it may again become, as it formerly was, the general beverage of the country, and knowing that where wine is accessible to all, drunkenness is exceedingly rare. I have numerous communications from chambers of commerce of many of the large commercial towns of the United Kingdom, as well as from mayors and magistrates. Mr. Donald Nicoll says— I have reason to believe, by my experience as a licensing magistrate, that the introduction of foreign wines, at prices adapted for the million, would be a great boon to the cause of morality in this division, and to the public generally. The evidence taken before the Public-houses Committee of the two last Sessions teems with proofs of the demoralising tendency of spirit-drinking, and the evils of the present licensing system. Mr. Robertson Gladstone said— I believe some people entertain the idea that you have no right to select the licensed victuallers' business for the imposition of a tax, and trade should be free. We are now obliged to maintain a police force in Liverpool of something like 900 strong; and we are at this moment paying from the borough funds something like £100,000 for the erection of a new gaol; and I contend that we should not have to incur so large an expense on account of police force, nor should we at this moment have been put to the necessity of erecting a new gaol, if it were not for the existence of the licensed public-houses and beer-houses. In illustration of this, the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe) said last year in this House— He happened to know that in the parish of Marylebone, more persons were in attendance at the public-houses on the Sabbath-day, than in the whole of the places of worship throughout the parish. And I would further intrude upon the House by reading a short extract from a petition signed by from 40,000 to 50,000 wives and daughters of the labouring classes, and presented to the Queen by the Earl of Harrowby, on the 9th of June last:— We believe the benefit of our large and numerous claps was intended when the present beer-laws were made. But now, after many years' experience, we find, to our disappointment and sorrow, they work only for our injury and ruin, in every imaginable way, by reason of the very great facilities they offer, and the too strong temptations they hold out, to our husbands and sons to carry the wages, they hardly and honestly earn for the support of their families, to the gin and beer-shops; and that without one corresponding advantage, but rather, in how many instances with- out number, leading them step by step into crime, and ungodliness (which our own sex does not escape), entailing shame, poverty, and disgrace, upon us, upon themselves punishment and imprisonment, and sometimes an ignominious violent death, and consequently increasing largely taxation upon the sober, and expense of the most objectionable sort upon the whole nation, I will only trouble the House with one further quotation from a letter addressed to me by the Rev. Mr. Lewis, incumbent of Trinity Church, Ripon, who says— It is problematical how far the temperance societies would assist you, but many who are extremely anxious to check intemperance, though they cannot go the same length with teetotal advocates, would both sign petitions, and give money and labour to the cause. I write feelingly on the subject, daily seeing the ruinous effects of intemperance, principally through the use of ardent spirits, and finding the dram-shops do more to ruin, than all my fellow-labourers and myself in this locality can do to improve. Only this year, I have had to bury two brothers about 32 or 33, absolutely poisoned by ardent spirits. Looking at the deplorable results which are so clearly traceable to the abuse of strong beer and ardent spirits, taken together with the very faulty condition of the law with reference to the licensing system, I must say that I look forward to a considerable advantage to be derived from the measure which I propose; for it is impossible not to anticipate, from the use of wine, the same effect which is seen in other countries—that of an invigorating healthy stimulus, instead of the deadening poison produced by spirits. I trust, therefore, that upon this branch of the inquiry I have adduced sufficient arguments for a change of system. I will now proceed to investigate the third branch of this question—one involving our intercourse with foreign nations, and those increased facilities for advancing the principles of free trade, which, it seems to me, will be promoted by a large reduction of the duty upon wines. There are several countries in Europe which, by their climate and soil, are peculiarly adapted to the cultivation of the grape, and have been so throughout all history. The capabilities of many of these countries are boundless. Abundant evidence was produced before the Wine Committee of 1852, to show that in France, in Spain, and in Portugal, the cultivation of the vine would be extended indefinitely if markets existed for the produce. I adduced, in the Session of 1854, testimony to the same effect from various parts of France which I visited, and where I was informed that great anxiety was felt in those regions for the success of my Motion; that much ground, at present devoted to wheat, Indian corn and other grain, would be planted with vine, if the duty upon wine were reduced in England. In the classic land of Italy there are many wines hardly known out of their respective districts, but which would speedily find their way to our markets, and those countries would, in turn, take from us many of those manufactured articles which they are unable to fabricate. The Italian wines are little known to us, except to those who have visited the various countries of Italy; but their number is infinite, and justifies the memorable lines of the ancient poet— Sed neque quam multæ species nee nomina quæsint Est nummus, neque enim nummus comprehendus refert. Quam qui sacri velit Lybici, velut æequoris idem Discere: quam multæ Zephyro turbentur arenæ, Aut ubi navigiis violentior iricidit Eurus Nosse quot lonice vcniant ad littora fluctus. Germany produces many wines that would be imported into England at a low duty and become favourites, and the various states of that part of the Continent, who are now our customers to the extent of £7,000,000 sterling annually, would no doubt increase their commercial relations a considerable degree. In the Session of 1854 I gave the House some statistics with reference to the produce of the various wine countries of Europe, from the most reliable sources that I could apply to. I have reason to believe that those figures were correct; at all events I took great pains to obtain accurate information, and in all cases I published the names of my informants. I appeal to those statistics as constituting the best proof that there are to be obtained abundant supplies, if our consumption were stimulated by low duty. I am aware that many members of the wine trade do not hesitate to give it as their opinion that from the late deficient vintages, and the large consumption in the countries of their growth, added to the demand in Australia, that Great Britain will not be able to obtain more than the present supply for her population. I am quite of a contrary opinion. I will, with the permission of the House, give the opinion of one of the most experienced members of the trade—Mr. Thomas George Shaw, who says— As to the doubts and fours felt or professed that we could not procure the additional supply of about 30,000,000 gallons, they are too absurd to lose time in refuting; and I even go the length of stating my conviction that a shilling rate, although probably producing a slight rise for some months, would cause such a competition in the wine countries, and the introduction of so many excellent kinds hitherto unknown to us, that the general high standard of prices here would soon be assimilated to that of every other country. I shall only add, that the whole system connected with wine, spirits, licensing, and public-houses, is disgraceful to a country calling itself civilised."—Mr. Shaw's letter to The Times, Nov. 26, 1853. Messrs. D. and G. Brymuer, of Greenock, amongst many of a similar character, say as follows— In consequence of the late reductions in the French tariff, a line of communication between Clyde and some of the French ports will probably be established by us immediately, and as the wines of France form a large part of her exports, it is, of course, highly important to the shipping interest of this country to see these duties swept away, or greatly modified, as they entirely prohibit the great bulk of her wine from coming into consumption here. The salutary effects upon the morals and health of all classes of the change you propose would be incalculable. All the information which I have obtained from the wine countries goes to show that a reduced duty would lead to greater cultivation of the vine, and a relaxation of the duty upon English articles. Looking to the union which happily exists between Great Britain and France, and the brilliant feats of arms that have been performed by the armies and navies of those gallant nations during the war, it seems to me that sound policy, as well as the courtesy due to our neighbours, points this out as a concession that it would be graceful and proper to make to her. France has already given us an example worthy of imitation. The Emperor has shown a strong disposition to relax the high duties paid upon English goods, as well as to favour English shipping. Several decrees directed to these objects were issued last year; and it is particularly worthy of notice that on it appearing that the price of wine would rise in consequence of an apprehended deficient vintage, he at once ordered, by imperial decree, that all foreign wines should be admitted at the nominal duty of 25 centimes per hectolitre, which had before paid 15 francs when imported by land, and 35 francs when imported by sea, per hectolitre. The reduction of duty upon the same ground, that of deficient supply, must, I apprehend, be equally applicable with us; since it must be admitted to be a suicidal policy to mulct the consumer both with high duty and increased cost from de- ficient produce. In fact, if only as a temporary measure on the ground of scarcity, the principle recommends itself, and is analogous to the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, upon the subject of malt—when he said, in 1853, a scarcity being anticipated— Parliament had been invited to do that which, in cases of scarcity, it generally did, and to remit for a time a portion of the duty."—Chan. of Ex., 3 Aug. 1853. In a recent communication from a correspondent in Spain to the leading journal in this country is the following passage— Wine is so abundant in many parts of Spain (Arragon, among others), that it does not pay the grower. It is common in some of the wine districts to send two casks, and got one filled, the other remaining in payment. When the vintage is particularly good in quality, it is not unusual for the inferior liquor of a former one to be spilt upon the soil to make room for the better sort. In the time of the Carlist war, I remember often seeing the soldiers buying whole buckets full of wine for a few halfpence, and much of the produce of the Spanish vineyards is of excellent quality. The Valdepinas, for instance, when genuine, and stored in casks instead of the filthy pigskins that contaminate it with tan, is excellent drinking, and partakes of the qualities of both Burgundy and Port. Had Spain good roads, or, better still for the transport of merchandise, extensive canals, there is no valid reason for her not becoming a formidable rival to France and Germany in all the wine-purchasing countries of the world. The resources of Spain, in respect to production, cannot be overrated. I visited Cadiz last year, and whilst I stayed there I made excursions to Xeres, Port St. Mary's, and the other localities where the great supplies of what we term sherry wines are grown and made; and I felt assured, from all the information I obtained from the leading proprietors, that their stocks are large, and the increased produce would be very great. These wines are likely to be greatly consumed in England, as they have body and flavour without acidity. The following is an extract from a letter from Mr. James Baker, H.B.M. Consul at Barcelona— The subject appears to me to be of paramount interest for Catalonia, where very excellent and by no means dear table wines are produced in a sufficient quantity to allow of considerable exportation; and, though I am unable to speak with a full knowledge of the subject, I cannot but look forward with very great interest to a development of this remunerating trade with England. [Enclosure to Letter.] The fittest wines of Catalonia, for English consumers, are the Priorato dry wine, which would cost at Tarragona, placed on board, sixty hard dollars the Catalan pipe; and the same class of wine sweetened, to imitate Oporto, at eighty dollars the Portuguese pipe. Many specimens of wine were presented at the recent Agricultural Exhibition held in Paris. From Catalonia alone no less than 103 different kinds are reported to be produced, varying in price from 75 centimes the bottle (about 7½d.) French Exhibitors figure in the official catalogue to the number of 296 specimens. Mr. Louis Cazalas Allut, from the Herault, exhibited no less than 150 varieties, of the vintage of 1847, at 15 francs the hectolitre (about 1s. 3d. per bottle)—p. 277 of the catalogue; and many of the French wines are marked at lower prices. From Sardinia there are two specimens; from Switzerland, nineteen; and from Algeria, thirty-six. And here permit me to correct an erroneous impression entertained by many persons, and lately given expression to by the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, namely, that the duty bears a ratio of 25 per cent on the value of the wine. Now, in the wine above referred to, the percentage of duty on value is nearly 300 per cent; and the same may be said with respect to many of the ordinary wines of France, Spain, and Portugal. If, by the reduction of this duty, a general competition should be brought about, we may expect the production of wine from many other countries whose climate is suitable to its cultivation. Referring to that quarter of the globe in which such intense interest is at the present time centred, I will give a short extract from Captain Spence's book upon Turkey, Russia, the Black Sea, and Circassia. The author says— Yalta, entirely the creation of the Prince Woronzoff, is destined to be, at no great distance of time, a highly commercial and prosperous city. The harbour is safe, and all that the mariner could desire, and nothing can exceed the beauty and fertility of the surrounding country; for being protected from the scorching winds of the steppe, and the cold blasts of the north, all the productions of a more southern clime here attain the highest perfection, and the wines produced are already so much prized as to find a place at the Emperor's table; and Mr. Anatole Demidoff, in his Travels in Southern Russia and the Crimea, vol. ii., p. 84, describing Castropolo, says— An extensive vineyard, planted in 1829, and stocked with the choicest species of vine, selected with care, receives the ardent rays of a sun worthy of tinting the mellow grape of Spain. To say the truth the wine does not yet correspond to the quality of the vine and the beauty of the grape, but it is to be hoped that such fine vintages will not be lost for the want of good wine-makers to take advantage of them. By recent accounts it would appear that the United States already produce considerable quantities of wine. In Putnam's American Magazine, published in New York, November, 1854, I find the following passages— The earliest discoverers of America, the Northmen, landed at the island where now Newport stands, and christened the New World, Vineland. I am not surprised that the Northmen should have called this Vineland, says an old gentleman of our acquaintance who was born and bred at Newport. I can remember, when a boy, seeing the wild grapes growing all over the banks down to the water's edge. Sir John Hawkins, who was knighted by Elizabeth for his services in the action with the Armada, still better known as the Englishman who introduced the Slave Trade, speaks of drinking wine from American grapes in Florida in the year 1564, memorable as the birth-year of Shakspere. Landonier says, writing the history of his voyage to Florida in 1562—that the trees were environed about with vines bearing grapes, so that the number would suffice to make the place habitable. Master Ralf Sone, in 1585, commends the grapes of Virginia, grapes of suche greatnesse, yet wilde, as France, Spain, nor Italy have no greater. Vineyards were established in Virginia as early as 1620. Beauchamp Plantagenet in 1648 commends the wine of Delawarre (Uvedale) for its intoxicating qualities. A second draught, he quaintly says, four months old, will foxe (intoxicate) a reasonable pate. William Penn, in 1688, and Andrew Dore, in 1685, attempted to establish vineyards near Philadelphia; Kaskaskia on the Mississippi, still earlier, had its vineyards planted by the Jesuits. Fort du Quesne, now Pittsburg, produced its vines and wines under the French, prior to the year 1758. Volney, who visited America in the year 1796, speaks of drinking an American wine at Gallipolis, Ohio. Dufour, in 1796, speaks of a Frenchman at Marietta, on the Ohio, who was making several barrels a year out of the wild grapes, known by the name of sand grapes. I drank some of the wine when about four months old, and found it like the wine produced in the vicinity of Paris, in France, if not better. In the beginning of the present century the vineyards at Spring Mill, near Philadelphia, and the Swiss settlement at Vevay (Indiana), in 1805, were established. At Spring Mill, a variety of foreign grapes were tried, and abandoned; but a native vine, the Schylkill, an abundant bearer, succeeded well as a wine-grape. This, under the name of Cape grape, was transplanted to Vevay (Indiana), where it flourished many years. It produces a coarse red wine, of tolerable quality, only not to compare with the wine of the Catawba and Isabella. These two vines hereafter may form the great arterial branches through which the future prosperity of the Northern States shall flow, California and Texas, The Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, in a recent report on the business of that city, remarks as follows— Another business, which has grown up almost entirely since 1850, is making of wine, and which promises to equal in amount that of the finest provinces of France. By comparing the statistics of the Horticultural Society with the fact that numerous vineyards have been set out in the last year or two, we may confidently state that there are not less than 2,000 acres of Catawba vines in cultivation in the vicinity of Cincinnati, of which 1,000 acres are in full bearing. By the average production of the last few years, this area of vines will yield 700,000 gallons, and in a very short time it must be greatly increased. Already dry and sparkling wines and brandy, commanding the highest prices, are made here. Mr. V. Longworth, the famous wine-grower of Cincinnati, has just published an article, in which he says— Ours is the region for grape culture and the manufacturing of wine. The wine countries of Europe have no native grapes. Our hills and valleys are covered with vines producing hundreds of varieties of grapes. If our temperance men can be induced to respect the doctrine of the Bible, and not interfere with the culture of pure wine—not many years will elapse till we can not only supply the United States with wine, but include all Europe. I have a letter from Mr. Frederick Cozzens of New York, in which that gentleman says— The still Catawba wine will compare favourably with the best Rudesheimer and Hockheimer, which it resembles. The sparkling Catawba has a flavour peculiar to itself, richer, fuller to the taste, and more grapy than any champagne. The sparkling Isabella is still richer. It always struck me that these wines were peculiarly suited to the English taste. There are two domestic interests of considerable amount mixed up with this question; and I should be sorry for it to be thought that I could pass them over in silence. I mean the British wine trade, and the drawback upon duty-paid stock to foreign importers. The British wine trade has grown up in a comparatively short period, in consequence of the prohibitory duty upon foreign wines, and is at the present time a very thriving and increasing branch of commerce. The introduction of British wines throughout the kingdom has led to a very large consumption of those wines; and it is fair to assume that, to a certain extent, it has prevented the consumption of foreign wines; but I believe, also, that it is very often substituted for the foreign article; at all events, by being mixed with foreign wines in the hands of unscrupulous innkeepers and retail wine dealers—and this is, in my opinion, one reason why the duty upon foreign wines does not increase. Now, if my apprehension be correct, the Revenue is suffering from this process of mixing, and is likely to continue to do so. The British wine-makers view my proposed reduction of duty with great and natural apprehension, as likely to interfere with their business; and think that if the duty upon foreign wines be reduced, that they should have a corresponding favour shown them, by a reduction of duty upon spirits used in the manufacture of their article, which will permit them to compete with the foreigner as regards the cost. It cannot be urged that the British trade has any very strong claim for such an extension of protection; and I leave this matter entirely with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The drawback question stands upon somewhat different grounds, the merchants alleging that there is a distinct pledge given by the Government under Treasury order, to refund the duties paid upon stock in the event of a reduction taking place. I have upon former occasions referred to this question, and I am aware that it presents considerable difficulty, as well from the large amount that would have to be repaid, as from the facility which it presents for the practice of fraud. I trust that the proposition with which I shall conclude my address will, amongst other advantages, effectually silence the opposition of the British wine merchant, and the importer who has paid duty upon stock. If, as I think, it has been conceded as regards revenue, the present high duty is found to check consumption—if it be admitted that by the use of wine some improvement may be expected in the general sobriety of the lower classes, and that a country pledged to advance in the principles of free trade, we must ere long remove this highly protective duty, and thus promote a greater interchange of commercial products with other countries—the only question being how and when this change can be brought about, so as to affect, as little as possible, existing interests, and those parties whose fortunes are engaged in the trade. Much as I am in favour of an immediate reduction upon all wines, foreign and colonial, to one shilling per gallon, I am disposed to modify its operation in such manner as will, I hope, conciliate all interests, and induce the Government to adopt my plan, by way of settling a question which, if annually discussed, cannot fail to damage many important interests, and to keep foreign countries in a state of uncertainty as to the course they should pursue with regard to a most interesting branch of agriculture. I would therefore suggest, that, commencing from the 5th of April next, the duty be lowered to 5s. per imperial gallon. In the year 1854, the number of gallons entered for home consumption was 6,776,086, producing £1,914,387; so that, with the reduction I propose—the increased consumption to produce £2,000,000—should be 8,000,000 gallons, which I think likely to occur the first year. I would, in April 1858, reduce it to 4s. per gallon; and, if the consumption should increase to 10,000,000 gallons, the same amount of revenue would be obtained, namely, £2,000,000. In 1859, I would reduce it to 3s. per gallon; and, at that rate, a consumption of 14,000,000 gallons would produce £2,100,000. At 2s., to produce the same revenue would require a consumptions of 20,000,000 of gallons; and, at 1s., a consumption of 40,000,000 of gallons would be necessary to produce £2,000,000. I would leave the period of effecting the last two reductions to the consideration of the Government, due regard being had to the success of the reduction from the present rate to 3s. Though, it should be observed, that even admitting some small loss of revenue from this source, the Treasury will benefit, in 1859–60, largely from the falling in of terminable annuities. Being persuaded that a gradual reduction of the character that I propose would not disturb revenue, and combine the advantages I have ventured to enumerate, I beg to move that the House do resolve itself into a committee to take into consideration a reduction of the wine duties.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That, with a view to promote increased commercial relations with France, Spain, Portugal, and other wine-growing countries, this House will resolve itself into a Committee to take into consideration a reduction of the Duty upon Foreign and Colonial Wines.


Sir, looking to the lateness of the period of the Session at which my hon. Friend has brought forward his Motion—looking also to the state of our revenue and expenditure, and to the definitive financial settlement at which the House has arrived for the present year—I think I should be justified in at once calling upon the House to refuse its assent to the Motion now made without entering into any full statement of the reasons for that course. But I feel that the attention which the hon. Gentleman has given to this subject, and the details which he has laid before the House entitle him to a fuller answer on my part, and that I should be wanting in deference to him and the House if I did not state, not at any great length, but with some argumentative reasons, my grounds for not acceding to the Motion which he has made. In the financial statement which I laid before the House since Easter I expressed the opinion that the great difficulty which the financial reformer has to encounter in removing inconvenient imposts and in improving our fiscal system was the large amount of revenue which it is necessary to raise in order to meet our great annual expenditure. It is, I believe, a fact which rests on good evidence, that in the interval between the American and French wars, and before the latter great contest had added so largely to the amount of our national debt, so that at the commencement of the peace in 1815 it had reached a sum of nearly £800,000,000—when our expenditure did not much exceed the moderate sum of £12,000,000 or £14,000,000, Mr. Pitt entertained the plan, as practicable and feasible, of abolishing all revenue raised by import duties, of abolishing all Customs' revenue, and of raising the entire income of the country by direct taxes and taxes upon internal consumption. If Mr. Pitt were now at the head of the finances of the country, he would assuredly find that such a scheme would be utterly impracticable. It is impossible, with the large expenditure which we now have, to raise a sufficient revenue by internal taxation and direct taxes alone, without resorting to rates which would be found most oppressive. A finance Minister is now obliged to produce between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 annually; and to attempt to raise that immense sum by taxes levied upon the internal consumption of the country and by direct taxes would, in my opinion, be foolish in the extreme. Under these circumstances it is necessary that we should, to a considerable extent, rely upon import duties as well as upon taxes levied upon internal production. But our system of taxation is so arranged that scarcely any portion of it affects that class of articles of consumption which consists of solid food. We have no taxes upon bread, biscuit, pastry, moat, poultry, game, fish, vegetables, fruit, butter, cheese, or eggs; and if any person will confine his consumption of food to a combination of the articles I have named, and will be so sober as never to drink any fluid but water, he may defy the inroads of the tax-gatherer. But in devising our system of taxation much recourse has been had to potable articles, or articles of drink. I will state to the House, in the first place, the amount of taxation which is annually raised upon those articles which produce different sorts of drink, and which are not fermented or intoxicating. There is a small duty on cocoa, which produces about £19,000 a year; coffee yields £462,000; sugar, which to a great extent is consumed with beverages, £4,254,000; tea, £5,683,000. Upon these four articles we levy an annual revenue of about £10,418,000. I now come to fermented or intoxicating beverages, upon which a very large portion of our revenue depends. I will take, first, the Customs. In 1853 the duty on rum produced £1,253,000; foreign spirits yielded £1,435,000; wines, £1,924,000; and I will add to these an article which cannot be considered as solid food, which certainly is not a beverage, but which, partaking of the nature of air, may, perhaps, be assigned to fluids—I mean tobacco, the duty on which produces £4,728,000. These articles together produced about £9,340,000. I next take the excise duties, which are connected with different sorts of beverages. The duty on hops yields £440,000; the malt duty £5,418,000; British spirits produce £6,864,000. There is another excise duty which is producing a large revenue, of which a considerable portion may be set down to the consumption of spirits, beer, and different fermented liquors—I mean the duty upon licences, which yields £1,244,000 a year. Of that sum I am told about £1,000,000 proceeds from licences for public-houses, taverns, and other places connected with the consumption of spirits. These excisable articles produced a sum of £13,966,000. These two items produce the sum of £23,306,000; and, therefore, taking together the fermented liquors, and those liquors which are not fermented, we have a total of about £33,000,000 levied exclusively upon different beverages. The House, therefore, will, I think, see that it is of great importance in our fiscal system not to make any change which will diminish the pro- ductiveness of that great branch of our revenue. But I would now come more closely to the arguments of the hon. Gentleman on the subject of the duty on wine. I will state briefly to the House the progress of the duties upon wine. In 1794, the duty upon French wines was 4s. 6d. the gallon, and the duty upon Portuguese wines was 3s. In 1795, the duties were raised respectively to 7s. 4d. and 4s. 10¾d. In 1796, they underwent a still greater increase, being raised to 10s.d. and 6s.d. They continued at that rate till 1803, when they were raised respectively to 12s.d. and 8s. 3d. In 1804 and 1805 there was a further increase, and in 1813 the duty upon French wines was raised to 19s.d., and that upon Portuguese wines to 9s.d. In 1814, the duty upon French wines was lowered to 13s.d., and in 1816, the two duties were fixed respectively at 13s. 8d. and 9s.d. These duties again underwent a considerable reduction in 1825, being lowered to 7s. 2d. and 4s. 10d. respectively. That was an important era in the history of the wine duties. They were reduced to the extent I have stated by Mr. Robinson (now Lord Ripon) the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in consequence of its being believed that the high duties diminished the consumption. In 1831, the difference between French and all other wines was abolished, and the duty was equalised at 5s. 6d. per imperial gallon for all wines except Cape, which was charged at the rate of 2s. 10d. In 1840, that 5s. 6d. was raised to 5s. 9d., which is the amount of the duty at the present moment. Such being the history of the duty upon wines, it is important to observe the consumption since 1795. In 1795, when the duties were not very different from what they are now, and when the population was considerably less, the consumption of wines was 8,238,000 gallons, and the revenue was £1,694,000. In 1803, when the duty was as high as 12s. 5d. on French wines and 8s. 3d. on Portuguese wines, the consumption was 8,226,000 gallons, and the duty, notwithstanding its high rate, produced a revenue of £2,423,000, showing that at that time—during the war—the high rate of duties did not affect the consumption of wines, which remained uudiminished. In 1807, when the duty was 13s. 8d. on French and 9s. 8d. on Portuguese wines, the consumption was 6,271,000 gallons, and the revenue amounted to £2,729,000, show- ing again, notwithstanding the high rate of duty, that the consumption remained large, and that a great revenue was produced. In 1810, the duty was equally high, and that was the year of the greatest revenue, the duty producing £2,786,000. In 1824, the year previous to the reduction, to which I have just alluded, the consumption had fallen to 5,030,000 imperial gallons, producing a revenue of £2,162,000. Notwithstanding the reduction of duty which has taken place since then, from 13s. 8d. on French and 9s. 8d. on Portuguese wines to a uniform rate of 5s. 9d., the consumption of 1854 was only 6,775,000 gallons, and the revenue only £1,914,000. Therefore, in spite of the great increase of population and the reduction of the rate of duty, the total consumption of wine and the total produce of the wine duties have diminished since the early years of this century. I think, then, it follows incontestably from these figures, that in the case of wine we are not to expect the ordinary results to ensue from a reduction in the duty, because there are here evidently other causes in operation beyond the mere pressure of the Customs' duty. Those causes are undoubtedly to be sought in the great change of tastes which has taken place in the upper classes of society with respect to the consumption of wine and the greater sobriety of their habits; and it is only by taking those generally operative causes into consideration that it is possible to account for the phenomena which are presented by the consumption of wine in this country. I now come to speak more particularly with reference to French wine, to which the hon. Member for Pontefract adverted. In 1854, notwithstanding the equality of the duty upon all foreign wines, the proportionate importations of foreign wines from different countries stood to one another as follows:—Of French wine the percentage of total imports was only 8 1–10th, of Portuguese wine it was 36 6–10ths, of Spanish it was 38 3–10ths, and of Sicilian it was 11 1–10th; so that the importation of Sicilian wines appears to be greater than that of French wines. These figures, taken together with the progress which has been made in the consumption of different sorts of wine since the equalisation of the duty, seem to show that there is a decided taste in this country in favour of the stronger sorts of wine of Spain and Portugal. In 1831, when the equalisation of duty took place, the proportionate consumption was as follows:— Of Portuguese wine 43 per cent, of French wine 4 per cent, and of Spanish wine 33 per cent. In 1854, these proportions stood as I have already enumerated them, so that the increase of Spanish wine had exceeded that of French wine, notwithstanding the equalisation of the duties. It seems to me to follow from this comparison, that no considerable part of the reduction in the consumption of wine at the present time, as compared with the early years of this century, can be attributed to fiscal causes; and it also follows that, inasmuch as the equalisation of the duties on the weak and strong wines of the Continent has failed to produce any remarkable increase in the consumption of weak wines, we cannot expect that a further reduction would be attended with the effect which the hon. Member anticipates. There is only one case in which that reduction could be expected to produce any very important result, that is to say, if the reduction were carried to such an extent as to come into competition with the consumption of British spirits and other fermented liquors produced in this country. It is necessary as our fiscal system is now arranged that the duty on wine should bear some reference to the duty on spirits, on which so large a portion of our revenue depends; and if the duty on wine be carried to so low a point as to make it cheaper to consume foreign wine than colonial or foreign or British spirits, or even beer, then undoubtedly the consumption of weak wines would be greatly increased in this country; but, then, let me remind the House that the duties upon those other classes of fermented beverages would, in fact, operate as a protective duty upon wine, and wine would be introduced into this country under cover of a disproportionate duty upon spirits and beer. But, so long as a due proportion is observed in the rate of duties upon those different classes of fermented liquors, whether produced in this country or imported from abroad, I believe that it is vain to expect that any considerable quantity of the weaker wines of the Continent will be consumed in this country. There is one other point to which I must advert before concluding my remarks upon the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. It is a proposition which has been often made to substitute for the present duty, which is equal upon all classes and qualities of wine, an ad valorem duty. Attempts have been made with regard to other great articles of consumption, to impose ad valorem duties upon equitable principles, but have proved unsuccessful. Both before and since I entered on my present office inquiries were instituted by the department of Customs, with the view of ascertaining whether it would be possible to devise any means of imposing an ad valorem duty on wine. None has yet been contrived; and I believe it impossible to devise any system by which the quality of wine can be ascertained with so much accuracy as to prevent fraud, and to enable the Government, without a tedious and vexatious process, which would be far more injurious to the importer than the present state of the law, to impose ad valorem duties. If, then, it be admitted that it is impossible to impose a duty upon wine on the ad valorem principle, the only means by which the inferior wines of the Continent can be admitted into this country, on such terms as would meet the views of the hon. Gentleman, would be to lower the duty to a point which would practically make cheap wine a substitute for spirits and beer, and which would, as I have previously observed, subject them to an unfair competition. I quite appreciate the force of the arguments brought forward by the hon. Gentleman with respect to our relations with France, and I wish that it were in my power to look forward with any hope to our being able at an early period—with reference to the great amount of revenue which it is necessary for us to raise—to place our duty on foreign wine at such a point as would materially increase our relations with our continental neighbours. That is a consummation much to be desired. I cannot, however, say at present that it appears to me we can look forward to its immediate occurrence with any very sanguine hopes, but in the meantime we have this consolation in reviewing our fiscal system, that, however the large amount of our expenditure may render it necessary to maintain rates of duty upon some articles of domestic production, and on some articles which we import that are inconveniently high, and which we would be glad to reduce, yet, nevertheless, our fiscal system is now framed upon equitable principles. It favours no one class of the community at the expense of another class—it favours no one foreign nation at the expense of another foreign nation—it favours no class of importers at the expense of another class of importers—it is equal to all, whether foreigners or natives, and whenever it may happen that a great increase in our wealth and consumption, and a possible reduction of expenditure, may enable us to reduce the rates of some of those duties, we may then have an opportunity of holding out to the taxpayers a prospect which, under the present circumstances of the country, I fear it would be an illusion for us to expect within any period likely soon to occur. After these explanations, I trust the hon. Gentleman will not think it necessary to divide the House upon this occasion.


said, he wished to inform the House that the manufacturing interest of the Potteries warmly sympathised with this Motion; they felt that a large portion of their trade was at stake in it, and were anxious that something should be done in order to extend their connections with France. On the other hand, he must confess that the people of France viewed our free-trade principles with suspicion; they could not believe us sincere while we kept up these heavy duties on their light wines, which we professed so much to want. He hoped the time was not far distant when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to hold out brighter hopes than he had done on the present occasion.


said, he thought that they ought to look to home and reduce the malt duty, if they reduced duties in favour of the merchants of France, Spain, and Portugal, The object of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Oliveira) was no doubt a legitimate one, but if the duties on wine were reduced, taxes must be laid on the people in another shape, to make up the deficiencies in the revenue. He thought that all that was said about strengthening the "bonds of alliance" with foreign countries was only fine talk. Let foreign merchants meet the English half way, and then they might talk of universal free trade. Some of those cheap wines of which so much had been said, were very sour wines, and he thought that the people of this country would prefer drinking the pale ale manufactured by a Member of that House to drinking those foreign wines, for which they had not yet cultivated a taste. In the absence of any popular agitation upon the subject, he thought it was premature to call upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to sacrifice so large an amount of revenue as an alteration of the wine duties would entail.


* Sir, I entirely concur in the observations which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the financial part of this question, and will not go over the same ground. I should not, Sir, have offered myself to the notice of the House, but for the remarks made by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Pellatt), and my hon. Friend below me (Mr. Oliveira), which render it necessary for some one to point out the disadvantages which this country labours under in its commercial relations with France, Spain, and Portugal.

My hon. Friend has given the House an elaborate statement of the progress of the wine trade from an early period, and endeavoured to show that the consumption has increased when reductions of duly had been effected. Now, it is a very remarkable fact that there has been little variation in the consumption of wine, and that it has not been affected by the reduction of duties. When Mr. Huskisson reduced the duty in 1825, there was no increase of consumption, and it has continued with little variation from that time to the present day; and if you will take into the calculation the increase of our population, the consumption of wine has actually diminished. The following is the official return of wine retained for consumption:—

Gallons. Duty paid.
1825 8,009,542 £1,815,053
1830 6,434,445 1,351,607
1831 Duty reduced to 6,212,264 1,356,208
1835 5s. 6d. 6,420,342 1,691,532
1840 Duty 5s. 9d. 6,553,992 1,872,799
1845 Duty 5s. 9d. 6,736,131 1,787,560
1850 Duty 5s. 9d. 6,437,222 1,824,457
1855 Duty 5s. 9d. 6,296,439 Duty not ret.
Wine is consumed by the rich, and those who can well afford to pay for it; it is therefore to my mind a proper article for taxation. And before we meddle with the duty on wine, we must do an act of justice to the labouring classes and mechanics at home, by reducing the duty on malt, which affects the price of those really national beverages which are used by all in the shape of beer and porter.

The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated the duty on malt to be only £5,690,000; but, Sir, I beg to remind the hon. Gentleman the duty paid on malt for the past year (according to a Return lately made to this House), was £6,767,000. [Here the CHANCELLOR rose and intimated that he quoted the duty for 1853.] I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; I under- stood him to quote the duty for the year past; however, I give the latest return for the past year, when it amounted to the sum I have named, £6,767,000. This sum exceeds the duty on wine more than threefold; and malt is consumed mainly by the poorer classes. I submit it has stronger claims than wine on the sympathy of this House for reduction. The consumption of malt, owing to the increased duties, is less than it was fifteen years ago.

Bushels. Rate of Duty. Amount of Duty.
1841 36,164,448 2s.7d. and £4,889,252
1845 36,545,990 5 per cent. 4,937,959
1846 42,097,085 5 per cent. 5,691,142
1850 40,744,752 5 per cent. 5,511,441
1854 36,819,360 4s. 6,042,888
1855 33,887,564 4s. 6,767,076
I now come, Sir, to our commercial relations, and will begin with France. France has no claim upon us for further concessions in the way of reduction of duties, and it is a delusion to suppose we can extend our commerce by reducing the duty on wine, or thereby induce, as my hon. Friend would lead you to suppose, France to relax her fiscal system, and adopt a more liberal commercial policy. It is England who ought to ask this of France, that she should give something in return by way of reciprocity for the advantages we have conceded. We have thrown open the whole of our trade to France; she can trade to all our Colonies on the same footing as we do ourselves; she can compete with us in our colonial markets on equal terms; and she can bring produce from our Colonies or any part of the world to England on the same footing as we can do. I ask, can we do the same to France? If I, as a British merchant, wish to import sugar or coffee into France from South America, Ceylon, or any other country under the British flag, I am subjected to differential duties, and so prohibitory in their operation as to exclude British shipping. In addition to a large differential tonnage duty on the ship, there is on the cargo in British bottoms a difference varying from 15 to more than 100 per cent. Thus I, as British shipowner, am excluded from the valuable carrying trade of Laguira, St. Domingo, Costa Rica, and even our own Colonies, into France.

In answer to the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Pellatt), that if we reduce the duty on French wine, we might induce France to receive our pottery and cutlery on more favourable terms, I beg of the House not to be deluded by any such arguments. We admit into England all French manufactures, at merely nominal duties, and her trade with England has increased since 1843, from £2,500,000 to £10,500,000, and nearly all in a highly manufactured state; while, on the other hand, our exports to France remain almost stationary, being now only about 3,000,000, and consisting mainly of coal, unwrought copper, China clay, wool, and other articles, on which very little skilled labour has been employed.

I submit, it is for France to make concessions, and meet us in a spirit of reciprocity; her people want our pottery, cutlery, and cottons; and at reasonable duties—we should have a large accession to our trade, and the advantages be mutual.

I now come briefly to notice our relations with Spain. Spanish ships enjoy all the advantages of the British flag, both with regard to imports and exports to England, our Colonies, and all parts of the world, but Spain concedes nothing in return. You will find a British ship loading side by side with a Spanish ship for Spain, Cuba, or Manilla; the Spanish ship obtains 60s. to 70s. freight per ton, and the British ship only 25s. to 30s. per ton, owing to the differential duties levied on the cargoes at the port of discharge. I ask, is this right, that while we place Spanish vessels, in all respects, on the same footing as British ships, that I, as a British shipowner, should be compelled to accept a freight so much lower than the Spaniard, in our own docks? Here, I say, we should ask for more liberality from Spain, before we make further and uncalled-for concessions.

With regard to Portugal, we are her best customers; and notwithstanding that we place Portuguese ships and produce on an equality with British ships from our Colonies and all parts of the world, yet she imposes (according to the evidence before the Select Committee of this House) a duty of £6 per pipe on wine exported to England, and only 6d. per pipe to the United States, thus making the export duty to England 240 times more than to the United States. My hon. Friend says, this has been lately reduced; I give it as I find it in Mr. Forester's evidence before the Wine Committee, page 14.

The average exports from Portugal, for nine years, amount to 33,337 pipes of wine; of these 22,861 come to Great Britain; 1,917 to the continent of Europe; and 8,559 to the rest of the world. Thus Great Britain takes two-thirds of the entire exports of wine from Portugal, or twelve times more than the continent of Europe.

I therefore submit, before we make further reductions on wine, we ought to require some relaxation in favour of the high fiscal duties on our manufactures, going to Portugal. The effect of lowering this duty would be to raise the price in Portugal and increase adulteration, the production not being equal to the demand in its pure state. I repudiate protection in ships and manufactures, and ask for free trade and reciprocity. British energy and industry will do the rest.

The hon. Gentleman urges upon the consideration of the House the moral advantages which will result; and how it would improve the condition of the labouring classes, if the duty were reduced to 1s., and the lower descriptions of wine thereby brought into general consumption. This could only be done at the sacrifice of the malt duty. But the evidence runs quite in a contrary direction, and witnesses of the highest respectability give it as their opinion, that the working classes would not drink the low-class wines, and that they would prefer beer. With the permission of the House, I will read one or two extracts from the evidence. Mr. Maxwell, upwards of twenty years in business, says at page 446, vol. i. — I place the large class of tradesmen with the bankers and merchants, and gentlemen of private fortunes. The next would be the respectable shopkeepers. It is a great mistake to suppose that they do not lake wine; they take a considerable quantity of wine now. There might be a small increased consumption then, at a lower duty, but not very great. Then the next class will be the lowest class, the million if I may so express it; and I can safely give an opinion, after some little experience and consideration of the subject, that I do not believe that they would drink the class of wines you could sell them at a very low price; and they would be exceedingly foolish if they did, to take it in preference to good beer. I can mention one or two facts, which have often struck me in my own business. We have a number of people coming into our counting-house in the day, of the lower class of carmen, and that class of men. It is almost universal for them to ask for something to drink. If you offer them a glass of wine, I have known them refuse it; they have often said to me, 'Give me threepence to buy a pot of beer, and I would be much obliged to you.' Then again, I have actually heard it stated, I will not vouch for it being the fact, but I believe it is the case, we are very liable to pillage, and our men will take the wine; but if you put beer in the cellar, they will take the beer in preference to the wine, though they may take the finest wine in the cellar; that is the positive fact. And if you come to this class of wine—I have not attended this examination much, and do not know the views the gentlemen moving in the matter hike—but if you come to introduce this class of wine, it would turn out a complete failure; and at the very low duty they propose, I believe the revenue would suffer greatly. He says there is a diminished consumption of wine in the navy. Mr. Hart, page 427, says— His house has been established a century. He does not think the labouring classes would consume low-class wines duty free; always found men prefer a glass of beer; has seen it in hundreds of instances; they prefer ale or porter; there is more nature in it; foreigners prefer it to their low wines; they drink low wines in their own country, because they can get nothing better. Mr. Bushell,. page 753, says—" Low-class wines would not be consumed at any duty; labouring men prefer beer,"

I might quote many other instances, but will not trespass on the patience of the House.

I think I have shown that low-class wines would meet with no favour in this country; and if the duty were reduced to 1s., it would be the means of introducing brandy at this rate, partly under the guise of wines, and the increased quantity which would be used in the bonded vaults, to strengthen the poor wines to make them keep. But, Sir, I will prove to the House, from the evidence of the hon. Gentleman who makes this Motion, that wines may be imported at a very moderate cost. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Oliveira) tells the Committee, at page 254, vol. i.— I am myself in the habit of importing for my own private use and that of some friends, who like those wines, considerable quantities, and I find that the cost price is about 20s. a dozen, with the present duty. In consequence of some correspondence with my cousin, the late Count Tojal, an arrangement was made, by which I imported them at £5 5s. per case of three dozens, which returned a very large profit, nearly 50 per cent. [Mr. OLIVEIRA: That is quite correct.] Very well, if the hon. Gentleman will content himself with more moderate profits than 50 per cent, and be satisfied with a remuneration of something like 8 or 10 per cent, he may, if he please, introduce wine at a very reasonable price for general consumption.

I will not trespass further on the time of the House, and beg to thank the House for its indulgence, and the patient hearing which has been given me.


, in reply, said that, after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should not press his Motion to a division.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.