HC Deb 02 March 1860 vol 156 cc2203-12

House in Committee, according to order. Mr. MASSEY in the Chair.

(In the Committee.)

Resolution 4, That the Duties of Customs chargeable upon the Goods, Wares, and Merchandise hereinafter mentioned, imported into Great Britain and Ireland, shall cease and determine, namely,— Goods, being either in part or wholly manufactured, and not being enumerated or described, nor otherwise charged with Duty, and not prohibited to be imported into or used in Great Britain or Ireland; but if any such Goods shall be composed of any Article liable to Duty, as a part or ingredient thereof, then such Goods shall be chargeable with the full duty payable on such Article, or if composed of more than one Article liable to Duty, then with the full Duty payable on the Article charged with the highest rate of Duty.

5. Cork Duties.

Resolved, That the Duties of Customs charged upon Corks, ready made, shall cease and determine after the 31st March, 1862.

6. Resolution Reducing the Duty on Corks, Hats, and Gloves (Under Treaty).


said, with regard to gloves he believed there was a general desire for an earlier abolition of duty. The object of fixing the date as it stood in the Resolution was to secure the present season, but that terminated on the 1st of August; and if nothing occurred to alter his deter- mination he should substitute at a subsequent opportunity the date of August 1, 1860, for the date of February 1, 1861.

Resolved, That, in lieu of the Duties of Customs now chargeable on the under-mentioned Articles on their Importation into Great Britain and Ireland, the following Duties shall be charged until the days hereinafter mentioned, and that from and after those days the Duties shall cease and determine, namely,—

Until the 31st day of March 1862, inclusive.
s. d.
Corks, namely, ready made the lb. 0 3
Until the 31st day of March 1861, inclusive.
Hats or Bonnets, namely,
Of chip the lb. 1 3
Of Bast, Cane, or Horsehair the lb. 1 3
Of Straw the lb. 1 3
Until the 1st day of February, 1861, inclusive.
Leather Manufactures, namely, Gloves of Leather.
Habit Mitts the dozen pairs 1 2
—Gloves, the dozen pairs 1 9
Men's Gloves the dozen pairs 1 9
Women's Gloves or Mitts, the dozen pairs 2 3

Agreed to. 7. Paper Hangings to be reduced (Under Treaty).


said, he should not attempt to prejudge the important question of the paper duties now leviable under the Excise. He hoped, however, that the Committee would agree to this Resolution, so that there might be no delay, on the understanding that the subject should be revived in case the House should decide against the remission of the paper duties generally. A report had within the last few days been addressed to the Treasury by the Board of Inland Revenue on this subject, and as it contained some useful information he proposed to lay it before the House.


asked when the general question of the paper duties would be considered?


had addressed a letter to the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Sir W. Miles) stating that the regular form of raising the question would be when the Bill for abolishing the paper duties should be introduced. It would be for the hon. Member to decide in what stage of the Bill he would take the sense of the House as to the proposed abolition of the paper duties.


said, that it would be very convenient if the day could be at once fixed. Could the Chancellor of the Exchequer say Monday?


objected to so early a day as Monday; but said ample notice would be given with respect to the proposed Amendment.

In reply to Mr. PULLER,


said, he hoped that the Committee would go through the Resolutions to-night, in which case the Address in approval of the Treaty would be moved on Monday.


asked whether a drawback would be allowed on the stocks held by the paper manufacturers? He was told that those stocks were very large, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, in spite of his inexorable mood during the last few days, would consider their claims to a drawback.


said, he had been in communication with the parties on this subject, and begged it would be understood that he had not refused the concession of the drawback. He hoped to be able to announce the intentions of the Government in the course of a few days.


wished, with reference to the drawback upon wines, to ask what time, and in what form, this question of construction would be submitted to the House, as the decision very much depended upon the will of the Government.


said, the hon. and learned Gentleman must be aware that it was impossible for him to enter into that question. He was not prepared to submit the question to the House, but he would take care that upon as early a day as possible an opportunity should be given to hon. Members of expressing their views on the subject.


gave notice, that, if no substantive Motion were submitted to the House, whenever a Bill was brought forward, he should take that opportunity of raising the direct question.


wished to ask whether the duty on paper would be immediately lowered, or whether the reduction would be postponed till the decision of the House on the general question was arrived at.


stated that he was in communication with certain parties relative to the drawback to be allowed on paper, but no decision had yet been arrived at on the subject. He would take care to submit to the Committee at as early a date as possible the decisions of the Government. As to wines, the duties would be immediately lowered, a bond being taken from the importers to abide by the decision of the House on the whole question of the Excise duties.

Resolved, That, in lieu of the Duties of Customs now chargeable on the under mentioned articles on their importation into Great Britain and Ireland, the following Duties shall be charged until the 15th day of August 1860, inclusive; and that from and after that date the Duties shall be the same as the Excise Duties for time being on Paper of British manufacture.

Paper, namely,— s. d.
Printed, Painted, or Stained Paper
Hangings, or Flock Paper, the cwt. 14 0
Pasteboard the cwt. 15 0



said, he understood it had been asked whether he intended to proceed with his Motion on the paper duty. He did intend to proceed with it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was kind enough to say he would consult his convenience. His convenience was the public convenience. Having had some conversation with the right hon. Gentleman, it was his intention to move the Amendment on the second reading of the Bill, and he understood that the Bill would be brought in at the early part of the week, and that the second reading would be taken on Friday.


The Bill will be brought in early on Monday evening, and on that evening we shall be able finally to fix on the day for the second reading.

Resolution proposed— That Spirits or Strong Waters not being sweetened or mixed with any article so that the degree of strength thereof cannot be ascertained by Sykes' Hydrometer, pay for every gallon of the strength or proof by such Hydrometer, and so in proportion for any greater or less strength than the strength of proof, and for any greater or less quantity than a gallon, 8s. 6d.

8. Spirit Duties.


moved an Amendment, "That the duty on Foreign Spirits be 9s., instead of 8s. 6d. a gallon." He thought that an error had been made in the calculation. He said that, unless this change was made, strong foreign spirits would be smuggled into this country under the name of cheap wine, at a great loss to the revenue, and also to the British distiller. He found by the instructions sent by the noble Lord to the negotiators, it was proposed that the import duty should be 10s. If he had been correctly informed, the present suggestion had come as a surpise upon the Commissioners of Excise. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No!] If the right hon. Gentleman contradicted this, how was it that the duty was raised to 8s. 6d., and even then the Excise officers were not satisfied? The Excise officers would tell them that the duty of 8s. 6d. was not sufficient to enable the British distiller to compete with the foreigner. At present the British distiller was taxed at no less than 450 per cent, while the foreigner was taxed only 150. The British distiller, too, was subject to all sorts of regulations and restrictions which impede him in his operations. It should be remembered that the foreign distiller had no Excisemen about him. He had been informed by one of his constituents that under the terms of this Resolution his plant, worth £30,000, would be reduced one-half in value, but if the rise to 9s. were agreed to, he would just be enabled to cover his outlay. In the British manufactures there were two distinct processes. There was first the corn distiller who produced what might be called the raw material. Then the raw material was kept in hand until the distiller required it. A duty of 8s. had to be paid before the rectifying distiller could touch it. Nor could he touch it in bond, he was obliged to carry it away in order that no fraud might be committed on the revenue. If they allowed the British distiller to take the spirit in this state free, he would not want a 6d. of duty on foreign spirits. Then besides that the subsequent rectifying was a very expensive process. Having read some further extracts from the correspondence, the hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.

Amendment proposed to leave out "8s. 6d." and insert"9s."


said, the hon. Member, in reducing the scale proposed by the Amendment from 10s. to 9s., had followed in the steps of the negotiators at Paris, whose conduct in this particular he condemned. The rate if fixed at 10s. would have tended towards an equalization of the spirit duties, which would yield an additional revenue of £2,000,000 to the Exchequer, without, he believed, any proportionate danger from smuggling. He should like to know the reason that had induced the negotiators at Paris to deviate from the instructions originally given to them on this subject.


explained that he had reduced the amount of duty proposed by his Amendment, with the view of meeting the Chancellor of the Exchequer half way, and he thought he ought now in his turn to make the very slight advance which was required.


said, that the proposed scale of the Chancellor of the Exchequer entirely met with the approval of those in the City he had been in communication with, and that he was instructed to oppose the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman. They said that the difference between 8s. 2d. and 8s. 6d. was sufficient to cover them against the charges imposed on them by the necessity of the Excise supervision, and to enable them to compete with the French distillers.


wished to know whether, in the allowances made with regard to the 1s. duty on foreign grain, the distillers were to have a drawback on the grain used in distilling, in the same way as on molasses. He wished also to know why French rums should be placed on a different footing.


approved the Amendment of the hon. Member for Fins-bury.


observed that M'Cul-loch, in discussing the reduction of the duty on brandy, showed how the consumption was increased, and that the same result followed the policy of Sir Robert Peel. His argument was this—that if the superior article were produced by the foreigner and the inferior one at home—if the same duty be levied upon both—it would practically amount to a differential duty in favour of the foreigner. He believed the reduction of the duty would be injurious to the Irish distiller, and should support the Amendment.


felt he would not be justified in voting against the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


said, that the duty proposed by the Resolution was not adequate, considering the embarrassment caused to the distillers by the Excise. He believed, however, that the question was one not so much between the British and the foreign distillers, as one that concerned the rectifier, whose business, he was informed, would be destroyed. The history of the duly on French brandy was a curious one. In 1845, Sir Robert Peel reduced it from 22s. 6d. to 15s. per gallon, and the result was, that while in 1844 the import was 1,073,000 gallons, yielding a revenue of £1,225,000, the import in 1848 only reached 1,107,000 gallons, and the duty fell off to £830,000. He (Mr. Bass) was apprehensive that similar results might arise from this further reduction. It might be said that the great increase in price, namely, from 4s. 6d. in 1845 to 11s. at the present time, was owing to the vine disease; but he was assured that the vineyards which produced the wine used for distilling had been but slightly affected, though it was quite true that the wine might have been used to some extent in lieu of other wines.


said, that as he had received no communication from his constituents after the supplemental Treaty was published as to the duty fixed for foreign spirits, he was bound to conclude that they were satisfied. He wished, however, to know whether any steps would he taken to procure the admission of British spirits into France at a reduced duty?


said, he was not aware that there were any very strong reasons why we should enter into a communication with France with respect to the duties which she levied on the importation of spirits. There wore, however, no good grounds why France should refuse to admit British spirits on liberal terms—inasmuch as she exported that article herself to a very considerable extent. In answer to the hon. and learned Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd), he might observe that no plan had been organized for the purpose of allowing a drawback upon foreign grain in distilleries. He wished, at the same time, to add that the matter was open to consideration, although it was a point with respect to which he was prepared to give no positive assurance. In reference to the arrangement which was proposed by the Government in the case of the duty under discussion, he could only say that it was one which had been adopted after very careful examination, and after the holding of repeated communications with members of the spirit trade who, he was bound to say, were gentlemen characterized by much intelligence as well as much moderation in the advocacy of their claims. He might here take the opportunity of observing that the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, to the effect that somebody had been despatched by the Government to Paris immediately after he had given notice of his Amendment, was only of value so far as that both circumstances had taken place. The truth was that the Government, owing to communications which had been made to them by the distillers of the three kingdoms, stating that they would labour under a disadvantage under the operation of the Excise laws which had not been calculated upon, and which, under minute examination, it was found would be likely to arise—had deemed it right to send an intelligent gentleman to Paris with the view of effecting certain arrangements in consequence; and it was, perhaps, not unnatural that the hon. Gentleman should attribute that circumstance to alarm on the part of the Government as the probable result of his Amendment. Now, the hon. Gentleman had gone on to contend that the original duty of 8s. 2d. a gallon had been fixed upon foreign spirits without consultation with the Customs and Excise; but he could assure his hon. Friend that the contrary was the fact; and that he had taken no step in this direction without consulting the officers of Inland Revenue, who differed entirely from the hon. Member. In answer to the question why the proposal of a 10s. duty had not been adopted he might state that, after due consideration, it had been deemed inadequate to meet the circumstances of the case. The operation of a 22s. and a 15s. duty on brandy had been to exclude from any competition with British spirits all but the finest qualities of French brandy; so that the argument with respect to levying a higher duty on brandy in consequence of its greater value was not so strong as it appeared to be at the first blush. Another reason why a 10s. duty had not been adopted was that it was found necessary to provide not only for the importation of French brandy, but also for that of other descriptions of spirits manufactured in France from corn and beet root as well as the spirit made in Holland, and more especially the cheap spirit manufactured in Germany, on which it would be impossible to justify the imposition of a The basis upon which negotiations had been entered into with France on the question 10s. duty by any reference to their value, was that of perfect freedom of trade, so far as regarded the abandonment of differential duties; so that the Government had, in the first instance, been very naturally led to impose the same rate of duty as had, for a series of years, been fixed on colonial spirits. When, however, the statement of the distillers and rectifiers had been submitted to the consideration of the Government, it was found that the matter stood in a different position from that which they had supposed. It was the general opinion of the distillers that the surcharge of 5d. would be sufficient; and with the exception of some of the rectifiers, he believed there was a general disposition to recognize this as an arrangement which ought to be satisfactory. The article of rum, he admitted, stood in a position altogether anomalous. He did not think it possible to increase the rates of duty on rum, as the disadvantages of the Excise laws would not admit of it. But rum was a limited production, proceeding from the tropics, and therefore it was an article in which the distiller at home did not very much fear competition. It was quite necessary, however, to afford the same advantage to the rum of foreign countries as to rum from our own colonies. The article of tafia from any colony of France looked rather suspicious; but as regarded Martinique there was a bonâ fide trade in that kind of spirit, and it was a well-known commodity. This was a general answer to the questions which had been put, and this was the arrangement which, upon the authority of the best practical officers and the heads of the Board of Inland Revenue, he thought well suited to meet difficulties which, he admitted, were complicated and to solve them in the fairest manner of which they were susceptible.


said, that by the Supplemental Treaty the Government had confessed their ignorance and their error. If they had consulted the Excise, how came it they had originally fixed the duty at 8s. 2d.? The differential duty was not sufficient, even as arranged by the amended article. That duty was in favour of foreign brandy. It was not the gin-distiller, but the distiller of brandy in this country who would be ruined by the arrangement.


said, the hon. Gentleman was not justified in the contradiction which he had offered to him. The hon. Gentleman ought to have known that it had never been the practice for Chancellors of the Exchequer to send for whole Boards and enter into consultation with them as to any proposed changes. What he did was to send for the head of a Board, and upon all occasions his communications to the Board were made to the head. Who was the hon. Gentleman's informant on the subject he knew not, but this he could tell him, that with regard to the frequent alterations in these duties the head of the Board of Excise was fully informed from the first.

Question put, "That '8s. 6d.' stand part of the proposed Resolution."

The Committee divided: —Ayes 191; Noes 48: Majority 143.


asked, Whether there had been any correspondence with the French Government to obtain the same remission of the amount of duties payable on rum from the British Colonies admitted into France.


said, there had been no negotiation as to British spirits imported into France, and he was not prepared to state accurately what was the precise difference between the import duty in France levied on British colonial spirits and the duties of excise levied on spirits in France. He thought, however, that the changes made by France under this Treaty were much larger than those made by England, if measured by the relative position of the two countries.


said, he hoped the British distillers would be allowed to supply the Navy. He wished also to ask, whether the allowance for wastage in bond would be made according to the actual quantity wasted?


said, the question had been brought under his notice during this discussion for the first time, and he would consider it.

Resolution agreed to.

Resolved, That in lieu of the Duties of Customs now charged on the articles undermentioned, the following Duties shall be charged thereon, on importation into Great Britain and Ireland, namely,—

s. d.
Spirits or Strong Waters, not being sweetened or mixed with any article so that the degree of strength thereof cannot be ascertained by Syke's Hydrometer, for every gallon of the strength of proof by such Hydrometer, and so in proportion for any greater or less strength than the strength of proof, and for any greater or less quantity than a gallon the gallon 8 6
Of and from a British Possession in America or the Island of Mauritius, and Rum of and from any British Possessions within the limits of the East India Company's Charter, in regard to which the conditions of the Act 4 Vic. c. 8, have or shall have been fulfilled the gallon 8 3
Rum Shrub, Liqueurs, and Cordials of and from a British Possession in America or the Island of Mauritius,

Resolutions to be reported.

To report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported on Monday next.

Committee report Progress; to sit again ON Monday next.