§ Order for Committee read: House in Committee.
§ Mr. MASSEY in the chair.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
begged to propose an amended Resolution, reducing the duty on hops from the 1st of January, 1861 (not under treaty):—That on and after the 1st of January, 1861, in lieu of the Duty of Customs now chargeable on the article undermentioned on importation into Great Britain and Ireland, the following Duty shall be charged, viz.:—Hops, until the 1st of January, 1862, the cwt, 20s.; hops, on and after the 1st January, 1862, the cwt., 15s.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he had given notice of an Amendment to leave out the words "Hops, on and after the 1st of January, 1862, the cwt., 15s.," and add the words "from and after which date the duty shall absolutely cease and determine," with the view of establishing perfectly free trade in hops; but on reflection, and after consultation with friends on whose judgment he relied, he thought it desirable not to pledge the House to any prospective abolition of another source of revenue. With the permission of the Committee, therefore, he proposed to modify his Amendment, so as to leave the question to Parliament to determine, whether there should be any and what duty on hops on and after the 1st of January, 1862. The Excise duty on hops was peculiar and op- 685 pressive to the producer, and he wished to remind the House that this duty and the Customs' duty on hops were inseparably connected, and that they must stand or fall together. The Excise duty on hops was levied, not on the hops used in the manufacture of beer, but on the hops actually produced. In some seasons the production exceeded the consumption. The consequence was that the producer paid frequently out of his own pocket duty on hops that were not consumed. He could give numerous objections to those ditties, but he would refer those who wished to obtain a good knowledge of the question to a pamphlet written by Mr. G. P. Bacon, Secretary to the Society for Promoting the Repeal of the Duty on Hops. The Excise duty was peculiar, because the consumption of hops was strictly limited by the operation of the malt duty; but owing to the uncertain nature of the crop, the amount of hops produced was uncontrollable. The only element under control was the extension or reduction of the acreage; but even that was most inefficient. In 1852, 46,000 acres yielded five times as large a crop as 54,000 acres in 1854. The result was that by no fault or improvidence on the part of the producer more hops were produced than were required for the consumption of the year, and as the Excise duty was levied, not on the manufactured article, not on the hops which found their way into the brewer's vat, but on the raw material at the source of supply, the producer had to pay out of his own pocket a duty on the quantity in excess. He contended that this was contrary to all the doctrines of political economy. The average Excise duty paid upon each acre of land in England during a period of twenty-two years was £16 16s. 3d. In 1855, when there was a large crop, the average in Sussex was between £14 and £15 per acre, and yet that land was not let for more than 10s. per acre; consequently, the Excise exacted a duty amounting to between twenty-eight and thirty times the rent of the land. Indeed he could go on preferring indictment upon indictment against the tax. Every element which went to make up a bad tax, was, in short, most ingeniously combined in the hop duty. It was said that the duty upon hops did not affect the consumer, but only the producer. That, however, was not the case There was expended in this country £2,000,000 annually in the production of hops, and if they established free trade in 686 hops, which was the object he had ultimately in view, and that amount was in creased by half a million or a million, would not the consumers of beer, barley-growers, and maltsters be proportionately benefited? It would be equivalent to a reduction of the malt duty, and would give I a stimulus to the growth of barley. He I had a high authority for saying that the price of hops did affect the consumer of I beer, the barley-grower, and the maltster. In 1854 the crop of hops fell short, owing to a blight, and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who then held that office, moved a Resolution to suspend half the Customs' duty on foreign hops for a year, expressly on the ground that if that course was not adopted the consumer would suffer by the high price of hops. The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was carried by a majority of three to one, and in the succeeding year the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Radnor (Sir G. C. Lewis), who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, confirmed the view's which his predecessor in office had expressed. In opposition to the assertion of some hon. Members, he had the authority of Mr. Pressley, the Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue, for saying that the hop duty was a very elastic tax if judiciously and liberally reduced. In his evidence before the Committee, that Gentleman showed that in 1829 the duties on beer, malt, and hops brought £7,112,416 to the Exchequer, of which more than £3,000,000 were obtained from the beer duty alone. In 1857, the duty on beer having beer abolished in the interval, the revenue from malt and hops alone yielded £6,402,984, or within half a million of the amount produced before the £3,000,000 of beer duty were swept away. Different Chancellors of the Exchequer had considered this subject, and had defended the duty solely upon the ground of the state of revenue at the time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had, indeed, gone so far as to describe the levying and collection of the hop duty as an enormous system of fiscal blundering, and not a word had been said in favour of the tax except by the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary, who defended it on the ground that it was easy of collection. That might be a recommendation of a good tax, but it was no defence for a bad one, because the easiest system would be to resort at once to confiscation. The repeal of the duty would be attended 687 with a great saving; the persons who collected it were not connected with the permanent Excise, but were employed upon that duty alone; there would, if the hop duty were abolished, be no further necessity for their services. The only reasons which he could assign for the maintenance of the duty so long were that it was a tax which was not supposed much to affect the consumer, and that the hop-growers were a small and weak interest, to whom Chancellors' of the Exchequer were not obliged to defer. If the hop-growers had brought their interest to bear upon the House with the same force with which the paper-makers, glass-blowers, and other bodies had presented their claims to consideration, he was satisfied that the hop duties would long ago have been swept from the statute book. He, however, hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not look simply to the pressure which the hop-growers put upon him, but would consider the justice of their case. The duty was full of injustice and inequality, and therefore demanded his attention. He did not propose to embarrass the financial arrangements of the year by asking for the immediate abolition of the duty, nor ask to pledge the House prospectively to the abolition of another source of revenue. His moderate proposition was, that the right hon. Gentleman should take the duty for one year only, leaving it to a future Session—and probably a future Parliament— to determine in 1861 whether any or what duties should be levied on hops; and he hoped that by economy and retrenchment, together with the increased receipts from other sources of income, they would be enabled to dispense with this impost at the end of the year.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "in lieu of"
§ SIR BROOKE BRIDGES
said, he rose to second the Amendment. It had been said the hop-growers were divided in their opinions regarding the objectionable character of these duties, but he could assure the House that there was a perfect unanimity among the growers, who formed a large portion of his own constituency. Their views were precisely similar to those of the constituents of the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the Committee. No one could deny that beer was the best beverage that could be had for both poor and rich, and, therefore, those who were producers of hops, malt, or any other article used in the manufacture of beer, 688 were entitled to the consideration of the House. He contended that if, with due consideration for the interests of the revenue, any relief could be given, the hop-growers were entitled to receive it, and he hoped that the House would consent to the modest proposition now made. All the hop-growers asked for the present was that no duty should be fixed to continue upon hops, either Customs' or Excise duty, after the period mentioned in the Amendment, but that it should be left open to future consideration whether it would be desirable, after that time, to continue any duty at all.
§ VISCOUNT HOLMESDALE
said, he wished to request the attention of the Committee while he pointed out one mode in which the existing Excise duty inflicted excessive hardships upon the hop-planters. It sent into the market at the same time a large quantity of hops; the merchants knew that the whole must be sold in order to enable the farmers to pay the duty; they took advantage of that fact and reduced their prices. Hops had recently been entered for exportation for the sake of the drawback allowed by the Excise, taken into the middle of the Channel, and there thrown overboard, the drawback being more than the price which the hops would have brought in the London market. With the exception of the duty on chicory, the hop duty was the only impost levied on the raw and unmanufactured produce of the soil, and what the growers wanted was that they should be relieved from the old fashioned trammels of protection, and that the Customs' and Excise duties should be swept away together. It might be that in Kent hops would still pay the cost of production; but he believed that the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if carried into effect, would put an end to the cultivation of hops in those districts where, as in Sussex, hops of an inferior quality only were grown, and he would ask the Committee to think twice before they adopted a course which would create an enormous amount of misery among the population of that county.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
said, that many of his own constituents were engaged in the hop trade, and he did not agree that all the misfortunes of the hop-growers sprung, as the noble Lord seemed to think, from their customers. It was by the latter who purchased the hops that the duty was paid; and as they had large stocks on hand at the present time, it was most important to them 689 that the reduction of the duties should be deferred until they had got rid of their existing stocks. There was generally great dissension amongst the various classes of hop-growers; and it was singular now to find that there was perfect unanimity. This, however, he presumed, had been brought about by the proposition that the English hop-grower was to pay 14s. per cwt., whilst the foreigner paid only 15s. He would support the proposition of the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Dodson), but he did not see why hon. Gentlemen should not endeavour to obtain a fair differential duty, and it did seem extraordinary that the hon. Member for East Sussex should be so anxious to get rid of the 6s. differential duty which would exist between the proposed duties of 14s. and 20s. Why did they not propose to add the words "on and after the 1st of January, 1862, 20s. per cwt.," instead of 15s. He knew that by treating these matters as abstract questions they might arrive at any conclusion they liked, for such questions were very abstruse. They could not, however, be sure that in 1862 all these duties would be swept away altogether, and it was better not to leave the matter to chance. As to the propriety and justice of a differential duty of 6s., the hop-planter and the hop-merchant were in the same position. The proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that the duty should be paid on the 1st of January in each year; and if afterwards the hops sold badly there might be a loss not only of the cost of production but of the duty also. This duty was in addition to £26 an acre for cultivation, and other very heavy charges; whilst, on the other hand, the foreigner received the best consideration. The foreigner produced his hops at about half the expense which the Englishman paid. He was not going to use a protection argument, because, of course that was quite wrong, but he wished to bring before the Committee the gross unfairness which would be perpetrated under the proposed system. Of course it would be said, if the foreigner could produce at a cheaper rate our own growers should not cultivate the article, whatever might be the effect on the labourer or the owner of woodland or anybody else from their ceasing to do so, and therefore he did not put that point forward, but he did say, "do not give that protection to the foreigner which you refused to your own people." The foreigner 690 paid the duty only when he chose to bring the hops in, and beyond that he could bond them if he pleased, in this country, and pay the duty upon taking them out of bond when he sold them, while the Englishman was to be forced to pay the duty on the 1st of January. What he claimed from the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, that the Englishman should be placed upon the same footing as the foreigner. By obliging him to pay the Excise duty on his hops before they were sold, he would be deprived of the use of the money advanced for the duty, and therefore entitled to demand that a countervailing duty, representing his loss in that respect, should be placed on foreign hops. He had no doubt he should be told that these advantages to the foreigner were strictly in accordance with the principles of free trade; but as those principles were applied to his constituents they did not like them. They had heard so much about free trade that he almost began to fancy that it was an advantage to have a burden imposed upon you from which the foreigner was exempt. He repeated, he regretted that the hon. Member for East Sussex did not insist that the Customs' duty should remain 20s. against the British Excise duty of 14s.
§ MR. DEEDES
said, he thought the Committee would be of opinion that the hon. and learned Member (Mr. John Locke) in the latter part of his speech, had very much answered the accusation which he had made against the Mover of the Amendment and his noble Friend. He had that night taunted the hop-growers with never having been in their present state of mind. He had told them that it was very desirable to maintain the Customs duty at 20s., instead of reducing it to 14s., and he had alluded to the difficulties which the foreign and home-grower would experience by the proposed Resolutions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But the hon. Gentleman had entirely forgotten the circumstances in which the English hop-growers had hitherto been placed. The Committee had not now to deal with the question whether the hops of East Kent were better than those of West Kent, but with a new system which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was about to introduce with regard to the sale of hops. Now, he believed that that system would put the hop-growers and also the hop-merchants, whose interests were identical to a great extent, in a very different position from what they 691 were in before, and it was that difference of position which had led them to consider what was the best course to follow. If the hop-grower saw that such advantages were to be given to the foreign grower he might fairly ask himself this question: "What is likely to be my future position? Shall I be better off by sweeping away every duty of every description, or allowing the differential duty now proposed to continue." He believed that the hop-growers had taken a wise course in resolving not to embarrass the Chancellor of the Exchequer by asking him to come to a determination now, but at a future time to endeavour to bring things into such a state that they should be relieved from all duty, and have the whole world thrown open to them. What would be the consequence? Naturally, at first, that those persons who could only grow an inferior quality of hops must go altogether out of the market, and employ their capital in other pursuits, in case the foreigner was able to send in a better article here. But that would be better for them than to go on from day to day and hour to hour without knowing what their position was likely to be in reference to the article they produced. He had always objected to the system of credit. He thought that system one of the most unwise and impolitic that was ever proposed by a producer or sanctioned by a Chancellor of the Exchequer. His language had always been this—"Whatever the duty which may be put upon you by the Legislature there ought to be a fixed time when you should be called upon to pay; that you should then pay it; and that under no circumstances should there be a remission." He was of opinion, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done well in naming a day when all the duty should be paid in future. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman contemplated deferring that period from the 1st of January to the 1st of March, or two months later. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Only for one year]. He (Mr. Deedes) thought that it should be so as a general rule, and, if it were, it would not embarrass the right hon. Gentleman the least in the world, because it would bring the whole amount into his financial year, and would be only just towards the growers, as relieving them from the pressure of the buyers. The system of bonding had been offered to the foreign hop-grower and denied to the home producer. Now, when it had been 692 stated in that House that the home-grower would be satisfied if he could bond his hops and pay the duty upon them when he found a market, the reply had always been that it would involve too large an outlay for warehouses, and that the system could not be adopted. He (Mr. Deedes) did not believe that there was any great difficulty in the matter, but that means might be found of bonding home-grown hops, the expense of which might be met by the bonder when he took them out, and without expense to the public. In this way equality would be established between the home and the foreign producer. On the part of the hop-growers of the district with which he was connected, he could state that they were ready and willing to stand the chance of perfect and entire free trade, to stand or fall by it whatever the result; and he found it difficult to imagine how a Government that was conducted upon the principle of free trade could say with positiveness, "we will not entertain this proposition." In point of fact the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman went no further than this, because it simply asked that after a certain time the subject should be disposed of by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hop-growers were fairly entitled to that consideration, and he hoped that those who felt an interest in the matter would give it that consideration, and that future Chancellors of the Exchequer would adopt that course towards the hop-growers.
said, that the question then at issue was, whether there should be free trade in hops as proposed by the hon. Member for Sussex, or a fixed protective duty as proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The House had had a Free-trade Budget and a Free-trade Treaty, both introduced under the right hon. Gentleman's auspices; and certainly the right hon. Gentleman had assumed a novel and somewhat curious attitude in not agreeing to an Amendment which was based upon those free-trade principles with which his name had been so long and so justly connected. Not only had he now come forward as the champion of a fixed protective duty—not only were the relative positions of the right hon. Gentleman and the British farmer reversed—not only was he the partizan of Protection whilst the British farmer was clamorous for free trade, but the right hon. Gentleman extended his Protectionist sympathies to the producer beyond the Channel, and proposed 693 that when the foreign producer came hero to compete with his English rival it should be upon conditions that were most advantageous to him and most disadvantageous to the English producer. He (Viscount Pevensey) wished to see the duties of Excise and Customs, so far as hops were concerned, altogether abolished; at the same time he was quite aware of the vast amount of competition which the home-grower would have to meet from the influx of foreign hops. It was impossible to forget what took place as the result of former reductions of the hop duty, first from £8 l1s., then to £4 l1s., and then to 45s. But in 1854, when the Customs duly was reduced to 20s. by Order in Council, the importation of foreign hops which followed caused a depreciation in the price of the home-grown article to the extent of from 40 to 50 per cent. With regard to the operation of the Excise duties, he would, by a few details, show most unmistakeably the extreme severity with which they pressed upon homegrown hops in low-priced districts. He would quote the case of the county which he had the honour of representing. The present quotation of the market value of Sussex hops ruled between 60s. and 80s. He would take first the maximum market value with the maximum cost of production, and then the minimum value of the produce with its lowest computation of the cost of cultivation. If the maximum cost of cultivation was put at £24 per acre, and the produce of that acre at 9 cwt., with the duty at 19s., or £8 11s. on the entire acre, the total cost of production, before the planter went into the market, would be about £32 11s. If the maximum market price was 80s., his produce would fetch under the present prices £35 10s, that is to say, a remunerative price of £3. But how stood the planter who only obtained 60s.? His cost of production would be£20, according to the evidence taken before the Committee in 1857; with the same average produce per acre and the same duty of £8 11s. he would pay £28 11s. in all; while with the sale of his hops at 60s. he would obtain £20, that is to say, he would sell at a dead loss of £6 per acre. If the tax was just in itself, it would be fairly argued that the agriculturist should turn his attention to other more profitable sources of income; but the fact was, that the tax itself was contrary to every condition of our present fiscal system, inasmuch as it taxed pro- 694 duction, and did not affect in the remotest degree the interests of the consumer; and the justice of the plea of the planter consisted in the fact that if the Excise duties were removed, being in themselves unjust as well as severe, he would compete without fear, not only with the foreigner but with his own more favoured high-priced countrymen. He (Viscount Pevensey) would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on another ground. The right hon. Gentleman, when advocating the repeal of the Paper Duty, spoke eloquently in favour of fostering and encouraging agricultural labour. How does the right hon. Gentleman put those doctrines into operation if he advocates the continuance of the Excise impost? From the year 1855 to 1859 the amount of acreage of hop-land under cultivation has fallen from 57,757 acres to 45,665. Perhaps the Committee will hear with surprize that this decrease of acreage within five years is almost equal to the entire amount of acreage now under cultivation in the whole county of Sussex and in the Weald of Kent. But what does the decrease of 12,000 acres represent in point of agricultural labour, which the right hon. Gentleman is so desirous of encouraging? Why, it represents the throwing out of a seasonable employment, at the lowest computation, 25,000 people. And what class is it that is thus driven from employment? They who compose it are not the able-bodied—they are not a class who could turn their attention to other employments; but they are the poorest of the poor—the weak and the aged—the woman and the child, who look to the pittance they gain in the hop-picking season as an important item in their slender means of livelihood. He (Viscount Pevensey) trusted the right hon. Gentleman in his zeal for the welfare of the agricultural population would think this point worthy of his consideration. He would not enter more fully into questions affecting the Excise duties, as they would be more conveniently discussed at a future period, but would assure the Committee, that if the Excise duty and other shackles which, cramped the industry and enterprize of the English producer were abolished, he believed that our hop-growers would be able to come into the market and compete on fair terms with the foreigner. Under these circumstances, and considering the precarious and expensive nature of the crop, he hoped the House would not refuse 695 to deal fairly and justly with the Excise duty when it came substantially before them, and still less, in the first instance, that they would not reverse so many decisions which they had arrived at in favour of the general principles of free trade, but would, by a large majority, express their concurrence in an Amendment which was founded on that free-trade principle which had been adopted as the basis of our modern commercial legislation.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he would vote against the Amendment. It was not a fair or legitimate way of raising the question involved. They were discussing the Customs duty on foreign hops, and that should be decided by the House first. The hon. Gentlemen opposite strongly opposed the income tax, which was the only means that enabled the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce any duties; they ought not to require the Legislature to make a gap in the revenue without suggesting a mode of filling it up. If the Amendment did not ask for the repeal of the duty on hops, it was a very idle one.
§ MR. DODSON
explained. He had merely proposed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should take the duty for one year, and then leave it to the future.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the hon. Mover of the Amendment was mistaken in supposing that the reason the hop duty was maintained was because Chancellors of the Exchequer found it convenient. On the contrary, if the measure in this matter was to be the comfort of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the hop duty was one of the most troublesome with which he had to deal. Every one who had held the office would bear witness to the perseverance and pertinacity with which the hop-growers pursued their object—the repeal of the duty. The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Pevensey) had referred to former decisions of the House of Commons, and seemed to think the Amendment a re-affirmation of the principles of free trade. If he understood the proposition it really amounted to this—that because they were about to admit foreign produce on terms approaching equality, therefore, no Excise duty could be levied on the corresponding British commodity without violating the principle of free trade. If that doctrine were true it would be entirely fatal to the malt duty, which produced six millions, and to the spirit duties, which produced nine millions a year. The principle of free trade was 696 one which was fully applicable when the duty was not for fiscal purposes, but not for the purpose of putting a fictitious price upon articles produced at home. Now with regard to the hop duty it was a remarkable thing that this House had never thought fit to pass a vote for the abolition of the duty. It had been resolutely asked for, and demands had been made for the repeal of the duty, and they had been energetically supported, but these demands had never been conceded by the House. No doubt there were objections to the duty, first, because it was an Excise duty, and those duties were not desirable; and next, it was an unequal duty, and bore unequally on the produce of one district as compared with the produce of another; but if it were compared with Excise duties generally, he could not say that it was more obnoxious than others, and it was less exceptionable to the course of trade than any other Excise duty. He thought no Gentleman would undertake to assert that the Excise law as applied to hops caused a decrease in the production of the article. It was also a mistake that the duty on hops cost a large amount in the collection, for the fact was that the charge in that respect was insignificant. It was, moreover, alleged that hopes were subjected to an undue burden with respect to tithes. That might be a reason for the Amendment of the law of tithe, but he must decline to furnish a receipt for tithes in reference to a charge on the public exchequer. The inequality of the duty, as bearing on the produce of one district as compared with that of another, was, he might add, to a great extent remedied by levying the tax upon the acre. It was, however, contended that the duty deprived the grower of his capital, and he admitted that the long period during which the hop-grower had hitherto been allowed to postpone the payment of the tax, afforded a stimulus in the production of hops to those who never ought to have been hop-growers; but when the duty came to be levied on the produce, at the time when in the ordinary course of business he was enabled to sell his hops, he could not conceive how the grower could under these circumstances be deprived of his capital. An hon. Member (Mr. Deedes) had argued that it was desirable the duty should be levied on the 1st day of March instead of the first day of January, but that was not the question under discussion, although he was not prepared to say that 697 the 1st of January was the latest day which could be fixed for the purpose. He might also observe that great complaints were made that the effect of the proposal of the Government would be to give the foreigner an advantage which the English producer did not enjoy, and the hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. John Locke) had contended that the proposed allowance of 6s. was a proof that to allow a smaller sum would be an injustice to the latter. He was of opinion, however, that the allowance of 6s. might be justified on the principle that when a considerable alteration in our fiscal laws was effected, bearing materially on different interests, it was as well to introduce that alteration in a manner as lenient as possible. Much stress had also been laid on the privilege of bonding which the foreigner would possess; but did any hon. Gentleman imagine that the producer in this country would pay an additional 1s. duty to avail himself of that privilege? [Mr. DODSON: Yes, I believe it.] It would be very strange if he were to do so, because that additional Is. would represent something like 18 per cent. If, however, it could be shown that the foreigner who paid 15s., possessed an advantage over the English producer who paid only 14s., he was quite ready to admit that that was an inequality which ought not to exist; but he must candidly state that no deputation had waited on him to represent that the duty of 1s. over and above that which was to be imposed on the English planter did not afford full compensation for any advantages which the system of bonding might confer on the former. Again, it was alleged that the abolition of the hop duty was a proposal which ought to be supported, on the ground that beer would thereby be cheapened. Now, while he was prepared to admit that beer was a good sound national beverage, yet he must decline to accede to the abolition of the hop duty on the ground that the price of beer would be lessened. He might add that he felt quite assured no measure which the House had adopted or was likely to adopt could tend to impair the general fondness of the English people for that article. That, however, was not the question before the House, and he for one objected to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman behind him on the ground that it tended to affect the position of the House with respect to the revenue derivable from hops in a coming year. The 698 question of the repeal of that duty was one, he might add, which was always open. The hon. Gentleman would be at perfect liberty to move for leave to bring in a Bill to repeal the hop duties next year. The question was always open. What did he intend? To place these duties in an exceptional and peculiar position. The hon. Gentleman did not intend to give a pledge, but half a pledge, to repeal these duties. Was that a pledge which the House would give? He was quite at liberty to propose the reduction or abolition of any tax; lot him by all means do so, and propose a substitute. A large portion of our revenue was made terminable next year. The House chose to make it so in order to strengthen its own constitutional control over the taxes, and upon grounds which were special and distinct. Did those grounds apply to the hop duty? Did the income tax and the hop duty stand on the same footing? The income tax was a special and powerful resource which had never yet been declared by the House of Commons to be a part of the permanent revenue. That question had been adjourned from time to time, and no Parliament or Minister had yet thought fit to face it. The income tax had always been granted from year to year, or for a very short term of years. It was totally different with the hop duty, which had existed for forty or fifty years, without any change at all, part of the permanent revenue of the country. The war addition to the tea and sugar duties was carefully defined for a period after the war, to create an expectation that when that period came Parliament and the Government would endeavour to remove it. No such consideration applied to the hop duty; there was no reason why it should be placed on a temporary footing any more than the duty on fire and marine insurances, the repeal or reduction of which was desired, and, he admitted, ought to be desired by the country. Were those duties, then, to be all made terminable next year? That would be a most imprudent course. Hon. Gentlemen opposite objected most resolutely to the financial proposals of the present year as throwing too heavy a burden on the finance of 1861; he trusted, therefore, they would feel the force of the appeal he now made to them, that they should not make a grievous and needless addition to the great mass of taxation that was already terminable. Such a course would shake public confidence, and even 699 public credit. It was impossible for the Government to acquiesce in the proposal of the hon. Gentleman. It was in vain to say that it did not interfere with the financial arrangements of the year. The Government would not be parties to storing up needless embarrassments which were not required by any consideration of the public interests. Even if the hon. Gentleman were to succeed in the vote he proposed, that would not decide the main question, which was that of the Excise; and it would be the duty of the Government to persevere in resisting any vote whatever which might tend to establish this dangerous principle, so incompatible with the sound and solid administration of finance, that the Parliament of one year, on grounds alleged in a case like this, should decide what should be done nearly two years hence. He thought he had shown every disposition to accede to the wishes of Gentlemen connected with the planting and growth of hops. He had already made a reduction of 30 per cent on the duty, thereby sacrificing a revenue of £100,000, and given the English producer a differential duty of 6s. Any further possible accommodation he was prepared to give; but to abandon this duty for the service of the present year was impossible. For these reasons he felt bound to oppose the Motion of his hon. Friend in the form in which it was now put, and continue that opposition to it, whatever form it might subsequently assume.
§ MR. HARDY
said, that it might be supposed from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that there was nothing done by the Motion relative to hops this year, and he told them it was an unprecedented proceeding to attempt to interfere with what was to be done in the matter of hops in the year 1862. Why did the right hon. Gentleman himself interfere? If he had been satisfied to take a Vote for this year alone, they would have contented themselves with a general Motion on the subject; but the right hon. Gentleman had dealt in the most remarkable way with the duty. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given no reason for the change he proposed in 1862, nor why a duty upon hops, which was, in fact, a tax on the raw produce of the ground, should be levied at all; nor, if it was to be levied, why the method he proposed should be adopted. The right hon. Gentleman was not asked to 700 pledge himself to any course in 1862, but merely to leave it an open question. He (Mr. Hardy) had studied this question but recently, but he felt that it would be for the benefit of both the hop-grower and the hop-merchant, that there should be no duty whatever. But even this was not asked for at present, the hop-growers wanted only to have a fair field left open for the future. It was a very objectionable feature of the present duty that the same amount was paid upon low as upon high-priced hops. Was that a state of things that should be countenanced? There was scarcely any duty of a more fluctuating character than that upon hops. In 1839 it was £379,000, in 1840 it fell to £62,000, in 1841 it rose to £266,000, in 1846 it was £443,000, in 1849 it fell again to £145,000, in 1852 rose to £447,000; but in 1854 it fell to £86,000, and in 1855 rose again to the enormous amount of £728,000, while in 1856 it fell again as much as £300,000,—namely, to £480,000. These figures showed it was not a duty that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could at all calculate upon, and was not, therefore, to be viewed as a tax which it was desirable to keep as a permanent tax, for no fixed amount could ever be relied upon. It was a duty that pressed so heavily upon hop-growers that they had actually been known to take their hops out into the Channel, and to throw them overboard, merely for the purpose of getting the drawback upon them. From the manner, too, in which the duty was at present levied it was rendered one of an extremely objectionable character, for it actually made a good harvest of hops a disadvantageous thing to the grower. This had already been stated by a previous speaker; but as an incident confirming the fact he might add that in one of the hop districts when such a circumstance had occurred the clergyman of the parish had stated that it was impossible to have a thanksgiving because the crops were so abundant. Thus the gifts of Providence were by our laws turned into a curse, and careful and expensive culture ruinously burdened. The peculiarities attending this tax rendered it one of so burdensome a character to the farmer that the greater the crop the worse it was for him; for the production exceeding the consumption the farmer paid duty upon that which he could not sell, and therefore in many cases preferred allowing his hops to be blown away 701 to becoming chargeable to the duty. By affirming the Amendment the Committee would be conferring an immense benefit upon the hop-growers, and doing nothing disadvantageous to the country.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that so far from wishing to pledge the House to any course, he merely wished to leave this matter in the same position as any other duty, save that on tea and sugar, which was wholly exceptional. His own Resolution had contemplated merely the present financial year and its necessities, but it was at the request of the hop-growers themselves that he had proposed to legislate for 1862. The effect of the Amendment, if carried, would be to leave this, a question of taxation, in a state of doubt and uncertainty.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Resolution."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 138, Noes 104: Majority 34.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
|Hops, until the 1st of January, 1802 the cwt.||20||0|
|Hops, on and after the 1st January, 1868 the cwt.||15||0|
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER moved, "That in lieu of the Duties now payable upon Ships with their tackle, apparel, and furniture, there shall be charged upon all Ships foreign built of wood, and upon all Ships built of wood in Her Majesty's Possessions abroad, on the Registration thereof as British Ships at any port or place in Great Britain and Ireland, the Duties of Customs following, that is to say—For every Ton of the gross Registered Tonnage of such Ships, without any deduction in respect of engine room or otherwise, 1s."
§ Resolution agreed to. House resumed; Resolutions to be reported To-morrow: Committee report progress; to sit again To-morrow.