HC Deb 08 February 1864 vol 173 cc225-34

Malt for Cattle — Acts considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


Sir, the House is well aware that the subject of the operation of the malt duty in restricting the employment of malt for the feeding of cattle has long been a matter of serious complaint, great controversy, and great interest. There are, I think, authorities of great weight and intimately conversant with agricultural affairs, who are of opinion that the matter is not of great practical importance, and that it never will be found gainful to make an extended use of malt in the feeding of cattle, even if the occasional use of it should be expedient. But, on the other hand, there are many who do not hesitate to say that they have made trial, and judging by the effect upon their own interests they are well satisfied with the result. Now, whatever be the truth of this question, it is very desirable we should get at it. If it be the effect of the malt duty to restrict and, indeed, prevent the employment in the feeding of cattle of a material really useful for that purpose, it is impossible to conceive a heavier charge or greater objection to any tax levied under the authority of Parliament. If, on the other hand, that material be not of great importance for that particular object, it is certainly much to be desired that the minds of those interested in the subject should be satisfied and enabled to arrive at a right conclusion. At different periods experiments have been made under the authority of the Government, in order, if possible, to arrive at a clear conclusion; but, whatever may have been the result of those experiments, I do not think that perfect satisfaction would be given to the persons interested if the matter were allowed to rest there. It is, therefore, with great satisfaction I have found that the authorities of the department of Inland Revenue have arrived at the conclusion that it may be in our power, without any serious risk to the great revenue dependent upon malt, and without imposing any onerous or vexatious restrictions, to bring the matter to issue in the broadest and freest manner by authorizing the erection of malthouses where malt should be made free of duty for the exclusive purpose of feeding cattle. I anticipate no objection to the introduction of this plan, and, undoubtedly, I should be exceedingly well pleased if it be found that the most sanguine expectations of those who have recommended the employment of malt should be fulfilled, because the effect of the measure in that case would be—first of all, a vexatious restriction would be taken out of the way of legitimate trade; and, secondly, a very important addition would be made to the materials and resources of one of the most extensive classes of British producers. The provisions of the Bill will speak for themselves. Of course we cannot permit that malt should be made duty-free for the feeding of cattle in the same premises as malt for purposes of brewing. That would be attended with difficulties entirely insurmountable in the levying of one of the most important branches of the public revenue. Therefore, separate premises will be required. The great security, however, to which we look, and it is the only important restriction imposed by the Bill, is that the malt to be used for the feeding of cattle shall be mixed with linseed meal or cake in the proportion of at least one-tenth of the weight. That restriction can, I think, in no case operate as a sensible burden, and we have arrived at the conclusion that it will be a sufficient protection to the revenue, inasmuch as it will effectually prevent the employment of the same malt by the brewers. The matter being one of an experimental character we propose, as I have often found the most convenient course in such matters, that the Bill in the first instance should be only for a limited period—namely, for two years from the passing thereof and until the end of the next Session of Parliament—that is to say, for somewhat more than three years. That will give a fair opportunity for trying the effects of the measure, and, if necessary, for introducing amendments before it receives the final sanction of Parliament. I beg leave to move— That the Chairman be directed to move the House, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to allow the making of Malt Duty-free to be used in feeding Cattle.


said, he must congratulate the House and the country upon the appearance of the first legislative measure in the slightest degree favourable to the agricultural interest during the last thirty years. Whatever difference of opinion there might be, even at that distance of time, upon the subject of the" repeal of the Corn Laws, there would be none upon this—that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government were entitled to the thanks of all interested in the agriculture of the country, for having thus given an opportunity of testing the matter in dispute. A great number of persons, uninfluenced by philosophic or scientific principles, who had applied their capital to the subject, maintained that the use of malt in the feeding of cattle would tend greatly to the advantage of the agricultural interest. He had been told that the Government had directed certain experiments to be made as to the ingredients or materials to be used in the feeding of cattle, and the expense of such experiments. He had been informed through the courtesy of the President of the Board of Trade, that those experiments had gone to some length. He would urge upon the Government to continue them, as of the utmost importance to the public in general, and as a great boon to the agricultural portion of the community. He might remark, however, that the limitation of the operation of the Bill to three years would, in his opinion, be found inconvenient. For so short a period it would hardly be worth the while of any one to erect buildings for the express purpose of malting in order to carry out merely an experiment.


said, he did not rise to oppose the motion, but to express a hope that it was not brought forward as a substitute for a reduction of the Malt Duty. If it were so brought forward, it would not satisfy the agricultural interest. As a body, they felt deeply interested in the Malt Duty, because they had felt it as a most oppressive burden for a considerable time. It was almost impossible that wheat, at existing prices, could be grown to pay a remunerative price; but as barley might, the agriculturists hoped to see it freed, as far as the finances of the country permitted, from that most obnoxious tax with which it was burdened when made into malt. The farmers, therefore, were not prepared in any way to relinquish their efforts to get some reduction of this tax, with a view to its ultimate repeal.


thought that the Bill was likely to give universal satisfaction to the country, and that it would be advantageous to others besides the agriculturists, for, considering what had been the prices of meat for the last few years, he conceived that the proposed measure was as much in the interest of the consumers as the producers. But he had risen to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the erection of buildings for the exclusive purpose of malting barley for the feeding of cattle. Now, in the county with which he had the honour of being connected, as well as in the adjoining county of Sussex, there were many buildings at present used only for drying hops, but which were equally well adapted for malting barley, and he wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether those who possessed what were called "oast houses" would beat liberty, under the provisions of the proposed Bill, to make use of them for the purpose of malting for their own consumption.


said, he wished to take the opportunity of re-echoing what had fallen from his hon. Friend behind him (Colonel Barttelot). He trusted that the proposed measure would not have the effect of preventing a future discussion on the repeal of the malt duties. At the same time he must admit that, as far as it went, the growers of barley ought to feel indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having taken into consideration the subject he had brought to the attention of the House. He could not help thinking that if inferior barley could be malted for cattle it would prove beneficial to the farmers. He trusted, however, that the provisions of the Bill respecting the erection of malt-houses would receive some enlargement, or else, in thinly-populated districts, where capital was scarce, no persons would embark in the erection of such buildings for so short a period as two or three years. He therefore trusted that the existing malting-houses might, with due restrictions, be made available for the purpose, and, if so, the measure would be productive of real benefit.


said, that, provided malt was better food for cattle than barley, then he was prepared to concur in the statement of the hon. Member for Kent that the proposed measure was a boon not only to agriculturists but also to the consumers. The question, however, was not a new one, but had been before the country for the last thirty years. A Commission, consisting of Dr. Lyon Playfair, Dr. Thomson, and Mr. Thompson, was appointed in Scotland to consider the subject; and after a variety of experiments the Commission came to the conclusion that barley, in being malted, lost a portion of its valuable properties, and that raw barley was a better material for feeding cattle than malt. He warned the Chancellor of the Exchequer that by the proposed Bill he was merely doing something calculated to lead astray the agricultural mind. The measure would, it was to be feared, open the door to great fraud, and the farmhouses of England would become, in a great many instances, the scenes of illicit distillation.


said, he presumed that the malting-houses now at work would be allowed to make malt for the purpose of feeding cattle, for no persons would erect special buildings merely for a term of two or three years.


said, he approved of the Bill as far as it went. He hoped the experiments would be conducted in such a clear and simple form as would make them conclusive on the disputed point as to the value of malt for the feeding of cattle.


said, he wished to know a little more about the Bill before he did that which he felt inclined to do—namely, thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for introducing the Bill. According to its provisions, as he understood them, in order to protect the revenue against fraud, the malting of barley for cattle-feeding would have to be carried on in a building separate from that in which barley was malted for brewing, and the Bill was to last for three years. But was it right to require the erection of special buildings for such an experimental purpose? Supposing it should turn out at the end of the three years that the system was a failure, all the expense would be thrown away. However, he would congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his having at last condescended to turn his attention to the interests of agriculture. He agreed with his hon. Friend behind him, that the Bill must not be taken as a substitute for the reduction or repeal of the malt duties. At most it should only be taken as an instalment of the large measure of justice which had so long been due to the great body of agriculturists. The agriculturists would have no attention paid to them till they bestirred themselves; but if they were persistent in their claims the Government would be obliged to attend to them, and they would obtain that justice with respect to legislation which the demands of other classes had put in their possession.


said, that having felt a deep interest in the question, he had given it a good deal of consideration, and his conviction was that no one would erect offices for the special purpose in question, unless with a view at the same time to illicit operations. As to the mixing, brewers must be very much maligned, indeed, if they never put worse things in their beer than linseed. Notwithstanding the progress of the teetotal principles advocated by his hon. Friends behind him and the general dislike to adulterations, he suspected there would be found plenty of labourers in charge of cattle who would be glad of beer from malt, even though one in ten of linseed were mixed with it. It seemed to him that agriculturists were disposed rather to repudiate the concession and to go against the duty as a whole. If the duty generally were abolished, then the revenue would run no risk, but he was satisfied that if malt were allowed to be dried in this way, however it might be mixed with cattle food, the revenue would suffer. Without entering into the question of the relative merits of malt and barley for feeding purposes, he must remind Members that, at present, farmers were at liberty to malt barley for that object, on giving notice to the Excise and observing certain restrictions. He had recently entered into correspondence with some of the highest authorities on this question; and he had received a letter from Baron Liebig, stating that the drying of malt, that was of barley already germinated, instead of adding to its value as food, would rather diminish it.


was glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had considered the subject before the House; when he recently attended a county meeting, convened for advocating the repeal of the malt tax, he considered it his duty to intimate to that meeting that he, for one, in the present position of affairs, was not prepared to sacrifice so large an amount of revenue as £6,000,000. He joined however with other hon. Members in thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for meeting one of the demands of the agriculturists. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) seemed to doubt whether malt was an advantageous material for the feeding of cattle; he (Mr. Newdegate) although at one time sceptical had become a convert to the opinion that it was so—a convert not upon a theory, but from the experience of his own neighbours. Many of the agriculturists in the Midland counties, stimulated by the competition which had been excited by agricultural exhibitions, had tried the experiment of feeding cattle with malt, and he had their authority for saying that their experiments, made not merely for scientific purposes, but for the purpose of producing the best animal in the best condition, had convinced them that malt was- a most valuable article for the purpose. It was a long time before he became a convert to that opinion, but he could not withstand the evidence which had been brought before him by his personal friends, whose testimony he could not doubt, and whose experience had been most ample. He trusted therefore that the measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would have the effect of satisfying one portion of the requirements of the agriculturists; but whether it would remove their objections to the malt tax entirely he was unable to say. But he thought the proposal was a fair one, and it would be received in that sense by the agriculturists. At the same time he wished to guard himself as being taken to express any opinion as to the efficacy of the measure. He should not like to place his opinion in competition with that of the hon. Member for Derby, who was a high authority on this part of the subject, as to whether the revenue would be duly secured; but he felt that it was well worth the while of the House to make some attempt to remove the complaints of the agriculturists, which were valid in this respect, that amongst all the trades and all the pursuits carried on in this country theirs alone was subjected to excise restrictions, which not only intercepted their profits but interrupted the due course of the business from which they derived their livelihood.


said, he was very glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had found it in his power to grant the proposed boon to the agriculturists. At the same time, he did not think it would be regarded as at all doing away with their just claims to have the whole subject of the malt-tax considered. His hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass), having unintentionally misled the House, in some degree, as to Baron Liebig's views, had kindly given him permission to read the whole letter of that eminent man. It ran as follows:— Munich, July 6, 1863. In forming a judgment on the feeding properties of malt, when given to horses, cattle, and sheep, it is obvious that in comparing it with barley we must not lose sight of the fact, that there is a larger amount of nourishment in barley than in the malt manufactured from it; for in the process of malting, barley suffers a loss in weight amounting to from 7 to 11 per cent of dry substance. The 'rootlets' constitute 3 to 3½ per cent of this loss, and as they contain a pretty large quantity of blood-forming (nitrogenous) matter (25 to 30 per cent), the grain, by their separation from it, undergoes a loss of one of its nutritive elements. Hence it is clear, that if in practice the feeding qualities of malt are found to be greater than those of barley, this can only arise from the circumstance that the nutritive matter contained in malt is present there in a more soluble, more digestible state than in barley; and that, therefore, in feeding with barley more nutritive matter leaves the body in an undigested state than in the case when an equal weight of malt is used as food. There can be no doubt whatever that in malt blood-forming matter is contained in a more soluble form than in barley; for the process of malting occasions a loosening of the component parts of the grain in so great a degree that 100 volumes of dry barley yield (notwithstanding the loss of weight) 112 to 114 volumes of dry malt. Such a loosening of the inner parts of the grain, thus enabling the gastric juice in the animal body to penetrate it more easily and thoroughly, is not to be attained in a like degree by a mechanical process. The comparative analysis shows finally that the amount of readily soluble blood-forming elements in barley is 1¼ per cent, and in malt 2 2⅛ per cent. By the process of drying in the kiln, a part of the soluble blood-forming elements is rendered insoluble, and from this it cannot add to the feeding capabilities. He (Mr. Caird) might add, in reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Sunderland, that the experiments made in Scotland in 1862 were of a most limited and restricted character, being confined to two or three cows only, and therefore could not be regarded as a settlement of the question.


I do not now enter into the important question, whether the Bill will be received by the farmers with disappointment or satisfaction. That is entirely beyond my view. I think, however, that the letter just read by my hon. friend from so high an authority entirely justifies the Bill. It may be that after all there will be disappointment, but there is at least a sufficient amount of uncertainty about the matter to give the English producers a fair right to have the experiment made, provided it can be done without danger to the revenue. My hon. friend the member for Derby (Mr. Bass) is persuaded that there will be a great risk in that respect. Well, the securities I propose are twofold—separate buildings, of course under the inspection of the Revenue Department, and the mixture of the malt with linseed. Although I do not consider myself as competent to give an opinion on the subject, I have such a degree of confidence in those charged with the administration of the Department of Inland Revenue that I feel fully warranted, without any misgivings, in recommending to the House the adoption of this experimental Bill. I fear I somewhat misled the House as to the question of time. Instead of speaking only of the erection of malt-houses—I should have said, "the erection or adaptation of malt-houses." My idea is that the premises must be separate, and that the mixture with linseed must also be compulsory, for we can have no security whatever for the revenue unless these conditions are enforced. But there is no reason why the malthouses should necessarily be new. The number of maltsters, it is well known, has diminished, and there are many premises now unused which might be adapted to the purpose. With regard to the observations of the hon. member for East Kent (Sir E. Dering), the question is of too technical a kind for me to give an opinion on it at the moment. I do not, however, see why any premises now applied to other operations may not be also available for this purpose, provided, of course, that they are not connected with malting or calculated to affect the duty. I think that there is reason in what has been said as to the shortness of the time allowed in the Bill, and I, therefore, propose to double the term of three years—that is, to insert five years in the Bill, and to make it expire at the end of the then next Session of Parliament. Of course if any case of gross abuse or difficulty shall arise, the Government will not be precluded from applying to Parliament for an amendment of the measure.

Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolution reported.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. PEEL, and Mr. HUTT.

In reply to Mr. BASS,


stated that persons operating under the Bill, like any other maltsters, would come under the general law with respect to the payment of licenses.


inquired, whether he was to understand that a person making malt for his own use must take out a licence?


replied that the Bill did not con- template such cases. It applied only to persons making malt for sale.