HC Deb 26 February 1864 vol 173 cc1218-27

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Malt may be made and used, free of Duty, in the Feeding of Animals).


said, that in the absence of his hon. Friend (Mr. Packe), he would propose an Amendment with the object of permitting the mixture of malt with cotton cake and rape cake.


said, he could not accept the Amendment, which would be destructive of the object of the. Bill. In matters of that sort they were treading on the very edge of danger, and it was requisite to be very cautious as to the materials which the Legislature allowed to be mixed with malt, or else a mixture might be produced the elements of which might again be separated and the malt which had been prepared for cattle might be used for the brewing of beer. There was no material known which could be used without danger except linseed or linseed cake. Still, other substances might be discovered in course of time which would protect the revenue as effectually as linseed, and he should, therefore, offer no opposition to the Amendment of the hon. Member near him (Mr. Caird), who proposed to allow the admixture of any such substance as might hereafter be allowed by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue.


said, he would not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment, to insert in line 14, after "Malt house," the words "or with such other substance as may hereafter be approved by the said Commissioners,"—(Mr. Caird), agreed to.

The object of the Amendment was to allow substances that might be found out hereafter, to be used instead of linseed if required.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 2, 3, and 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 (Maltster to provide a secure room for grinding and mixing Malt).


said, that as the clause now stood, a farmer would be required to have one room for storing his malt and another for grinding it; but he proposed to amend the clause by allowing the malt to be stored and ground in the same room.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6 (Malt to be mixed with Linseed Cake or Meal, &c).


said, that the excellent beer to which they had lately been treated by the hon. Member for Derby showed that a very good beverage might be brewed from the mixture produced by the Excise officer, and he would therefore suggest that the proportion of linseed should be one-fifth, instead of one-tenth. Some years ago an addition of 5 per cent was made to the taxes generally, but the malt duty was the only impost on which it was still retained. He, therefore, gave notice that on an early day he would move that the malt tax be relieved from that addition so as to assist the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the disposal of his surplus revenue. He now moved, that in the present clause one-fifth should be substituted for one-tenth.


said, lie regretted that he did not see his way to improving the Bill in favour of the agriculturists; but, on the other hand, he did not wish to render it more stringent as would be the effect of the Amendment. He entirely appreciated the motive of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wakefield, but as regarded the measure he could venture to assure him, in the opinion of the Government there was no cause for apprehension. He would not then enter into the question of the reduction of taxation, by which the hon. and gallant Member proposed to content both maltsters and farmers. With regard to the beer of which some hon. Members had had such an agreeable experience, conflicting accounts had reached him. He had heard even of contortions of visage on the part of those who had tasted the beverage, and of some having hastened to purge themselves of the effect of it, by resorting to a stronger liquor. Moreover, the linseed which had been used in that decoction had not been prepared in accordance with the conditions of the Bill. He believed that beer adulterated as he proposed could not be profitably sold.


said, he would suggest that as the excisemen were not experts, they might have some difficulty in detecting a breach of the Act.


said, he believed the officers would be quite competent for the task. In the event of their not being able to decide as to the character of the malt, they could send a sample up to the London establishment for analysis.


said, he should be glad to feel satisfied that no danger to the revenue would arise from the measure. He had drunk a glass of beer made with the mixture of one-Tenth of linseed with the malt, and he must say the beverage was of a satisfactory character. He would not say it was the finest he had drunk out of Mr. Bass's bottles; but it was of far better character than the beer generally met with. If, therefore, the mixture would produce as good a liquor, could they doubt it would be used for that purpose? If, however, that difficulty could be overcome, the Bill would remove the great objection to the malt tax, which was that it was an impediment to industry.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.


said, he rose to move a new clause, giving permission to agriculturists to malt barley. There had been a good deal of misapprehension with regard to the effect of his clause. Its practical effect would not be to withdraw the agricultural malt house from the supervision of the excise, but simply to enable the proprietors of these malt-houses to malt their barley for the consumption of their own stock without being obliged to take out a maltster's licence. That did not appear to be an unreasonable proposition. In fact, it was only an echo of the preamble. Under the existing Act any person had a right to steep his own barley and to germinate it, without any interference on the part of the Excise. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No.] Many years ago, when the repeal of the malt tax was proposed by the late Marquess of Chandos, Sir Robert Peel in opposing it quoted one of the regulations of the Excise, to the effect that the practice of steeping barley in water having become prevalent, and as the revenue might be endangered by the extension of it to other purposes, it was ordered that the supervisors should ascertain the parties who carried on the practice, and their mode of disposing of the grain so steeped, but that no interruption should be given to the process except upon actual proof or well-grounded suspicion of fraud. That regulation, as far as he was aware, had not been rescinded, and so he concluded that farmers were at liberty to steep their own barley and to germinate it. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No.] But, leaving that point, what he complained of was that the right hon. Gentleman in the Bill went out of his way to impose a tax upon the farmer in the shape of a maltster's licence, merely for converting the raw produce of his fields into a food for cattle. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that it would be desirable to enable farmers to malt their barley, but he had suggested that in all probability it would be cheaper and more convenient for them to hare recourse to some neighbouring maltster. Now, in some counties, there never had existed any great number of malt houses, and since the alteration in the system of malt credits, many of them had disappeared. Consequently, if the farmer were obliged to send his barley a considerable distance for the purpose of being made into malt, the cost of carriage would be something considerable, and in many cases would, no doubt, put a stop to the business. But, even supposing there was a maltster close at hand, it must be remembered that fresh malt was quite as necessary for cattle as it was for brewers, and he doubted whether its feeding properties would not be seriously impaired, if not altogether destroyed, by a detention for weeks and months in the warehouse of the maltster. As the operation of the Bill was limited to six years, it could hardly be expected that any man would go to the heavy expense of erecting new buildings for malting. It was manifest, indeed, that if the Bill was to come into operation at all, it could only be through the working of the farmers themselves, and if impediments were to be thrown in their way, he should be disposed to say that the measure, so far from being a benefit, would be an actual disadvantage to agriculturists. He admitted that the malt licence was not of a very onerous character, but that was the strongest possible reason why it should not be imposed upon farmers. It was an admitted principle not to maintain taxes which yielded little or nothing to the revenue, and which were at the same time extremely galling to those who had to pay them. It might be said that the exemption of agriculturists might be productive of danger to the Exchequer, but he contended that there were provisions within the Bill, as well as in the existing Excise laws, which put the probability of fraud entirely out of the question. By the second clause it was provided that every person intending to make malt under the Bill should be obliged to enter into a bond with two sureties, and the officers of Inland Revenue were entitled to put in that bond such stipulations as they might think fit. Again, by the existing Excise laws every person about to commence the process of malting, must give notice to the Excise of his intention, in order that an officer might gauge the contents of what he was about to malt, and so take care that the revenue was not defrauded. The same obligation would attach to a person malting under the Bill, and he did not believe that the taking out of a licence would make the slightest difference. He might be told that the Excise did not like exemptions; but up to last year the hop-growers, though dealing in an excisable article, and though not allowed to remove a single pocket before it had been visited by the officers of Excise, were never required to take out a licence for drying their hops. Why should the same liberty not be given to the growers of barley? But, after all, he hoped that the Bill would pass into law, believing that it would be of great practical utility. Among its incidental advantages, he had no doubt that, if not clogged with restrictions, it would have the effect of leading to a reduction of the enormous prices which linseed cake and other artificial feeds now brought in the market. He was persuaded, moreover, that the recent debates must have convinced everybody that the agriculturists were fully alive to the great importance, he would not say of agitating, but of ventilating the question of the malt tax in a fair and legitimate way. He believed it was indisputable that, in a pecuniary point of view, the proposed licence tax would produce so infinitesimal a sum, that it might be considered as of no value to the revenue. He, therefore, hoped the right hon. Gentleman, as an indication of his good will towards the agricultural classes, would concede the boon asked for, and sanction the principle of the British farmer being allowed to convert the produce of his fields to the best possible advantage, without having to pay an impost in the shape of a maltster's tax. He begged to move the following clause:— (Permission to Agriculturists to Malt Barley). —"That it shall be lawful for all persons engaged in agriculture to Malt Barley (according to the provisions of this Act) for the consumption of their own stock without taking out a maltster's licence.


said, his hon. Friend had on that as on all other occasions, discharged his duty to his constituents with zeal and ability; but it was not in his power to concede what his hon. Friend asked, nor to carry on the Bill saddled with such a clause as he proposed. As the law at present stood, it assumed, when certain processes reached a certain length, that the intention was to make malt, and the Excise charged a duty. The question for the Revenue Department to consider was at what stage, in virtue of their powers, they should interfere. His hon. Friend was mistaken as to the point at which that interference took place. He seemed to suppose that the whole process was permitted, with the exception of a single step; but nothing was allowed to go forward under the present system except the simple steeping, and even that was watched, or upon the next step the whole germination of the barley would be arrested, and taken to indicate an intention of proceeding to a further stop. His principal objection to the proposed clause was, that it would check a system of law that was uniform, recognized, and understood, in a matter of great difficulty and delicacy, and that for the sake of an advantage which was immaterial. His hon. Friend proposed to secure for the farmer this distinction— that whereas no person in any other condition of life might carry on a manufacturing process without a licence, he should be enabled to do so without making any payment to the revenue. And what did the impost, which his hon. Friend wished to remove, amount to? The greater number of farmers would pay the duty of 7s. 6d. for malting up to fifty quarters. Hardly any of them would pay beyond 15s. the sum which would allow them to malt up to one hundred quarters; so that the licence duty might be taken to amount to 2d. per quarter. The clause was the more objectionable because it would prove the parent of a brood of similar demands. His hon. Friend said that the farmer only asked to be allowed to malt barley for his own use. But why was not the farmer allowed to brew for his own use without taking out a licence? There was a description of malt that paid no duty—malt intended for distilling; but if the maltster desired to make malt for distilling he was obliged to take out a licence. The clauses of the Bill were not numerous nor complicated, but their effects would be to bring the trade carried on under the Bill within the general scope of the Excise Acts. If they proceeded to recognize descriptions of trades that might be carried on under the supervision of the Excise, but without a licence, they must have a new set of legislative provisions for that purpose. Under these circumstances, he must oppose the introduction of the clause.


observed, that whenever there was a Motion of a tyrannical or oppressive character, it was sure to come from the opposite side of the House, and proceed from some ultra-liberal Member. The present instance was an example of what he meant. Now, the exciseman did not pry into farmer's houses, he only troubled maltsters. But the hon. Baronet desired that excisemen should be constantly hovering round every farm house in the kingdom, thrusting themselves in, and prying into every corner. For the exciseman must see what farmers are malting, and then watch the malt to see whether it is devoted to feeding cattle, or to other purposes. Now if there was one thing in the Bill which had an odious tendency it was this, that the inquisition of excisemen would be rather increased. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had obviated that as well as he could; the hon. Baronet was not satisfied, but desired to make it as onerous and oppressive as possible.

The hon. Baronet made a mistake in his quotation, which he rather triumphantly read from a speech of Sir Robert Peel, as if it proved his whole case. He made a confusion between steeping, germination, and malting. Every one, then as now, might steep barley. It was only when germination had begun that the exciseman might step in. The hon. Baronet spoke as an agriculturist. Doubtless he had read Liebig's works. He might, therefore, remind him of what Liebig had said. Barley in itself was not such a very superior food, but malted barley had a peculiar efficacy in promoting the feeding qualities of other food. After the barley had been steeped, when germination commenced, a chemical change took place; other combinations were made, and a new substance called Diastase came into existence, somewhat similar to that which doctors, a few years ago, had administered to dyspeptic patients—he meant Pepsine. If germina- tion continued this substance would, in its turn, be speedily destroyed. But this was arrested by kiln drying. That was the history of malting, and the use of malted barley for feeding cattle; and the hon. Baronet would see that his quotation of words, which referred to steeping alone, did in reality not apply, and was no argument in favour of his Amendment.


said, his objection to the clause was, that it gave an undue advantage to the large farmer over the small farmer, and he thought legislation should give no advantage to either one or the other. It had been said, that if they allowed the farmer to dry his hops they should allow him to dry his barley; but hops would be spoiled without drying, and barley would not.


was understood to say that the Bill offered no inducement to the farmer to make his own malt for feeding purposes, and that it would be useless in its operation.


said, that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, who declared that he would not proceed with the Bill if the clause were carried, the hon. Baronet would do well to withdraw his proposal. It would be only fair to give the Bill a fair trial. The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, meant well to the agriculturists; he proposed the measure in good faith, and it should be accepted for what it was worth, and in the spirit in which it was given.


said, his noble Friend near him had laid down a great principle, in which he thoroughly agreed—namely, that liberalism and tyranny were convertible terms; he would go a step further and say that those who studied history would find that liberalism was the sister of tyranny, and the parent of anarchy. He believed that there was little in the Bill which would be satisfactory to the agriculturists, that it would cause great disappointment, and that they must indeed be thankful for small mercies if they were thankful for such a measure. The hon. Baronet said, that whatever might be the result of the Bill, the agricultural interest would not relax their efforts to obtain a repeal of the malt duty. But he feared that, for many years to come, the total repeal of that duty would not be financially possible. As far as the producer of barley was concerned, the advantage of such a remission would only extend to a small portion of the agricultural districts of this country; and he therefore hoped that the agricultural interest would unite for larger objects, regarding this as one only out of many burdens which they had to bear beyond their just proportion of taxation.


observed, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that the Board of Inland Revenue would take care of the purity of the particular material to be intermixed with the malt. He should like to know whether the Board of Inland Revenue would equally guarantee, by Government seal, the admixture to be sold to the farmer. There was a possibility, that between the period of the intermixture and the sale to the consumer, that adulteration might be practised, which would create distrust in the mind of the farmer, and, probably, loss to the revenue.


said, as far as his opinion went, the Bill would be of some use to discourage adulteration in linseed. As far as the relations between the maltster and the man of whom he bought linseed went, the Bill would be a check; but beyond that it could not go. Any further interference would be so vexatious and so increase the cost that the dealing between the buyer and seller must be left to the ordinary regulations of trade.


said, he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing the Bill, ought to have explained how little benefit the farmers would derive from the measure. It appeared to be really a Bill to transfer an experiment from the Inland Revenue Department to the maltsters of England. With regard to the Amendments of the hon. Member for East Kent, he really thought it was of little importance whether it was pressed or not, or whether the Bill passed or was abandoned.


said, he would add his recommendation to the hon. Baronet to withdraw the clause. It was quite clear the farmer would not get rid of the exciseman. A few shillings for a licence was nothing, the nuisance was the exciseman. He should have thought the hon. Baronet the Member for East Kent (Sir Edward Dering) would have understood that nuisance, for the inhabitants of that part of the country had the reputation of holding peculiar views as to the revenue beyond any other part of the kingdom. But, be that as it might, our Excise laws, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, formed a very com- plicated mass. No one could tell what the effect of having a licence might be as to penalties. The unhappy farmer might probably be deluded into believing that if he had no licence he would have nothing to do with the Excise, and yet he might be sued for £100 penalties. The Excise department might also be forced, for its own protection, to interfere with that which hitherto they had not interfered — the steeping of barley for cattle feeding. He agreed with the noble Lord that the Bill was not of much consequence one way or other. Some people might think that they would obtain an advantage from it, and if so, let them have it; but let the Government, like the black man's legs, have all the credit of it.


said, after the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, in the event of the Amendment being carried, the Bill would not be proceeded with, he would not press it to a division. He did not wish to prevent the Bill from passing through the House, and he would, therefore, withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 37.]