HC Deb 30 May 1864 vol 175 cc810-39

rose, pursuant to notice, to move— That in the opinion of this House it is expedient that the existing Duties upon Spirits should be reduced. The subject of which he had given notice involved a question of considerable importance. In the commercial language of the country, he might say that as sugar was easy, and as tea was looking up, bethought that the article of spirits might fairly claim some consideration from the House. Let it not be supposed that he had risen to advocate a discriminating duty on behalf of Ireland. Although the question involved was one which deeply affected the interest of Ireland, it certainly was not his intention to ask for any discriminating duty. But the difference between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and himself, in point of argument, was this—that while it would be enough for him (Mr. Whiteside) to prove that the right hon. Gentleman's last experiment upon the spirit duties was inapplicable or had failed both as regarded Ireland and Scotland, on the Chancellor of the Exchequer lay the onus of establishing that his experiment was applicable to all parts of the United Kingdom, Now, he intended to quote the right hon. Gentleman's own opinions in favour of his view of the matter, and to prove that that was a reasonable and logical view. If the right hon. Gentleman intended to apply one duty to all parts of the Empire, it lay with him to prove that such duty was applicable to the condition of each branch of the United Kingdom. He (Mr. Whiteside) was in a condition to prove that the experiment of the right hon. Gentleman was wholly inapplicable to the condition of Ireland. In 1853 the spirit duties in England, Ireland, and Scotland varied very materially. The astute mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was then directed to the question of equalizing the duties in the three countries, and he then said that he had for a long time been considering whether a great object of financial policy could not be obtained by equalizing the spirit duties in the three countries. The right hon. Gentleman then proceeded to state the nature of the task which he had undertaken. He observed— That is, however, a very difficult problem. It may be very doubtful whether it will ever be entirely obtained, but such an approximation to it as will stop smuggling, might, perhaps, at some time be reached. It is quite plain that such an equalization cannot be obtained without some reduction of the spirit duties in England. We must lower the English duties at a fitting time to some point up to which the others may be raised. The right hon. Gentleman then suggested an increase of duty "within reasonable bounds" for Scotland of 1s. a gallon, in addition to 2s. 8d. before. Making, then, an allowance for waste, the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated a gain to the revenue from Scotland of £278,000. Now the House would see what he proposed to do for Ireland. He (Mr. Whiteside) confessed he always felt alarmed for his country when the right hon. Gentleman promised to extend the benefits of his measures to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say— The Government have also anxiously considered this question as it regards Ireland. It is quite plain, I am afraid, that we can in no case stand as we are with regard to the Irish spirit duty, since an allowance for waste in bond will entail a diminution of revenue. At present the spirit duty in Ireland is extremely low in comparison with the duty in the two other countries. When an attempt was made to increase the tax in 1842 by 1s. per gallon, it was found most difficult to give effect to the increased duty, and we think it would not even now be safe to propose to levy an additional tax of 1s. a gallon upon home-made spirits in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman then discussed certain changes contemplated in the revenue as essential to the levying of the duty on spirits. He said— We think we may fairly propose an additional duty of 8d. per gallon on Irish spirits, namely, an augmentation from 2s. 8d. to 3s. 4d. a gallon. The right hon. Gentleman exhibited great caution then in the measures he was taking for amending and reforming the system by which the additional tax was to be levied. At that time he (Mr. Whiteside) pointed out the difficulties attending the attainment of that object, which he thought could only be carried out by some reduction of the spirit duty in England; but he made no advance to the settlement of that difficult problem, nor was any step taken towards it until the year 1858, when his right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, being then Chancellor of the Exchequer, undertook to deal with the Question. Nothing was more remarkable and nothing reflected more severely upon all financiers who had dealt with the spirit duties, except his right hon. Friend, than did the numerous alterations which had in the last few years been made in those duties. It was really surprising how any man would embark his capital in such a business, and it was not to be wondered at that so many skilful people left this country in order to avoid the legislation of a capricious-Minister and a fickle assembly. He (Mr. Whiteside) could safely say that the grounds on which the distillers of Ireland were induced to give their assent to the proposition of his right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire were reasonable and just—namely, that a fixed, permanent, equitable, and uniform duty would be imposed upon all parts of the country, and that the markets of England and Scotland would be opened to the manufacture of Ireland, so that they might be compensated by the greater sale of the article manufactured for the increased duty which was to be placed upon it. It was a very serious thing to raise the duty in Ireland in that year from 6s. 2d. to 8s. a gallon; still it was effected on the understanding that the duty was to remain permanent. That was the converse of what was recommended by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1853, which was to reduce the standard in England to a figure to which the duties levied in Scotland and Ireland might reasonably be raised. The arrangement finally made was, to preserve the duty at the figure at which it stood in England, and to impose additional burdens on Scotland and Ireland. But it was understood at the time that that was to be a permanent settlement. The next thing that took place, however, was a China war. The noble Viscount saw a British flag, which was seen by no one else, floating upon the Lorcha Arrow, and went to war with China. As a consequence he had a large bill to pay. No one denounced that war more eloquently or justly than did the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Having made that speech and defeated the noble Viscount, he ultimately became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was called on to pay the bill—a very unpleasant predicament in which to place the right hon, Gentleman. And accordingly, in July, 1860, when the Irish Members were taken at a disadvantage, being, as they often were, at the assizes, or else crossing the sea on their way back, the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in a supplementary Budget, introducing it with all those expressions of regret and explanatory observations which, from experience, they knew the right hon. Gentleman to be capable of making, particularly when he was on the wrong side of the Question. He expressed his regret at the China war, which placed him in the painful predicament of providing the means for meeting the cost of that war; and he then proceeded to show how he proposed to raise the money. This was the hinge of the whole Question. If the right hon. Gentleman was right then, he was clearly right now; but if he was wrong, as experience showed him to have been, he presumed he would not be unwilling to reduce the duty upon spirits to the standard settled in 1858, levying an equal and uniform tax upon the three kingdoms, Friends of his in Ireland were anxious to have the duty reduced to the rate at which it stood previous to 1858, but he did not think they ought to separate themselves from the English and Scotch merchants, who made out a very strong case against the last addition of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman treated the Question with great candour, admitting that the whole affair was one of money. The question was often discussed as if it were one of morals; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer put it roundly on the short and distinct issue that he must have money, and the only question to be considered was how he was to get it. The right hon. Gentleman, then, in effect, said, "I will unsettle what was settled in 1858." In February, 1860, the differential customs duty on spirits was, in substance, abolished, and, in July, 1s. 11d. duty was laid upon foreign as well as on British spirits. The following was the Estimate made by the right hon. Gentleman. He said that the increase to 10s. upon British spirits would I produce an augmentation of £2,252,000, independently of the revenue to be derived from foreign spirits; but, making every allowance for the diminution of consumption consequent upon the higher duty, he would only estimate the augmentation at £1,000,000. From foreign spirits the right hon. Gentleman was to receive £400,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer carried the House so far with him that in July, 1860, they agreed to his Resolutions. What had been the fulfilment of that prophecy? The speeches of the right hon. Gentleman had been collected in a book; and he (Mr. Whiteside) could imagine an advice to be offered to them by an enraptured economist—namely, that they might burn the Orations of Cicero, provided they preserved the Speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and made them their study. He should be happy to study the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, but he should certainly object to the other suggestion. But did the Chancellor of the Exchequer recollect the admirable speeches which he had made in reference to those measures he had introduced? All those speeches, which he had read with infinite pleasure and satisfaction, were speeches in extenuation and mitigation of punishment. Not one of those speeches had been made with the view of showing that his figures had been realized, or that his predictions in regard to the revenue to be derived from spirits had been fulfilled. The fact was this—the Chancellor of the Exchequer had never got the money he anticipated from his financial experiments, and what was more, he never would get the money. Nay more, if the right hon. Gentleman had simply left the duty as it had been, he would have obtained infinitely more than he had ever got under his new disturbance of the former equitable adjustment of those duties. His (Mr. Whiteside's) proposition, therefore, was that the House should prefer the settlement of 1858 to the novelty introduced by the right hon. Gentleman in 1860. In 1861 the right hon. Gentleman made a speech upon the grievances of the distillers — he stated those grievances very clearly, but he gave them no relief. Now, five gentlemen, distillers from grain in this city, had done him the honour of communicating with him, one of whom stated that his firm alone paid £600,000 yearly to the State, and that the five together paid nearly £3,000,000. Five others from Scotland paid about £2,000,000; and those from Ireland, with whom he was acquainted, paid £2,250,000. But to refer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in 1861. He said— It is one of the main complaints of the distillers of spirits, than whom I never had the pleasure of meeting with a more intelligent body of British merchants and tradesmen, that they are taxed, as they think, most unfairly in proportion to beer. I admit from its nature that beer ought to be taxed more lightly than ardent spirits; but we have certainly pushed this principle as far as it can go. He admitted from its nature that beer ought to be taxed more lightly than ardent spirits, and said that the Government had pursued that principle as far as possible— the alcohol in spirits was charged with a duty of 10s. 6d. a gallon, that on wine between 6s. and 7s. a gallon, and the alcohol in beer at only 1s. 10d. a gallon— that, in fact, while beer was taxed at the rate of 18 to 23 per cent ad valorem, and wine from 25 to 80 per cent, the tax upon spirits was upwards of 400 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman, however, declined to give the distillers any redress. Now, with respect to Ireland, he (Mr. Whiteside) considered it indispensable that the House should consider the condition of the distillers in that country. They belonged to a body of men who paid into the revenue about £10,000,000 a year. He had endeavoured to lay before the Committee the exact state of the facts. In 1861 the right hon. Gentleman not only failed to get the additional million from spirits which he had calculated upon as a moderate estimate, but his receipts from that source fell short by more than £500,000 of the amount received from the article in the previous year. That was to say, that they not only did not pay the additional revenue estimated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the sum raised in the shape of duty fell short of that of the previous year by upwards of £500,000. The right hon. Gentleman, in admitting those facts, stated that— It was estimated, on the contrary, before and apart from any change of duty, that the tax would yield about £400,000 more than the duty had yielded in the year before. So much for the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed, then, to be fully convinced of the error of his figures—an error from which no figures of rhetoric could rescue them. Now, it was generally the practice of the right hon. Gentleman, when his figures were in his favour, to assume a triumphant tone, and when they were against him an explanatory one. Accordingly the right hon. Gentleman said it never was the case that in the first year after a fiscal change of this kind the Government had received all the money which was contemplated. Well, but why then did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that he estimated the immediate increase from his new experiment at £1,000,000; and afterwards, when he found that his anticipations were lamentably disappointed, account for the enormous discrepancy by saying that the full and fruitful results of his experiments could not be expected in the first year after the increase of duty? And, referring to Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say— The country we naturally look to with misapprehension, and which may be called the peccant part of the United Kingdom. Illicit distillation was not increasing, as has been proved by the returns of the detections in Ireland; it was, in fact, reduced, and the police was effective in this regard. Well, he (Mr. Whiteside) admitted that that was rather a strong representation of the right hon. Gentleman's case, but he did not intend to leave that point untouched. He had now shown that the right hon. Gentleman had utterly failed in his experiment of 1860. He would now show what was the case in 1862. If the Returns of the revenue were bad in 1861, they were worse in 1862, the second year after the new experiment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman, in reference to the spirits duties of that year, said— With respect to the spirit duty, that is a fiscal and likewise a social question of very great interest and importance. The figures were but partially satisfactory. I estimated with a liberal allowance the effect of the heightened price—that we should receive £10,000,000 of revenue from British spirits. We have only got about £9,600,000. It is true there is an increase of £359,000 upon the previous year, but even this is not so large an increase as we thought we should receive. Now, the serious question is, from what cause has the revenue fallen short? Is it from illicit distillation, or is it from an alteration in the public taste, or is it from a diminished power of consumption? It is certainly not from illicit distillation. The right hon. Gentleman then entered into a dissertation upon public taste — a subject no one was more competent to discuss than himself. Those who thought that the taste of a nation could be altered had better go to Holland and see how the Dutch burgomasters and their friends swallowed the strong drinks there, although they had the sour wines of Germany which they never touch, and the light wines of France which they never taste. So in the damp climates of Scotland and Ireland. They might wish them to drink tea or coffee, but they persisted in drinking spirits; and that being so, the question was how they might be supplied at a high price without encouraging crime by illicit distillation. The right hon. Gentleman admitted the diminished consumption, but said that it did not arise from illicit distillation, but from the increased sobriety of the people. That prediction, however, unfortunately, had not been fulfilled. According to the last Return of the Inspector of Prisons in Ireland, the committals for drunkenness in 1862 exceeded by a trifle those of 1861. In 1862, when the duty might be said to have had an effect in diminishing drunken ness, the Inspector stated that the committals in Dublin for drunkenness amounted to 6,868, of which 3,788 were females, which was somewhat in excess of the numbers in 1861. This was after two years' experience of the duty which the right hon. Gentleman predicted would diminish drunkenness. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had truly said, with regard to the dangerous and weak side of any system for raising a duty on spirits, that in Ireland there had been no illicit distillation. Before, however, he entered upon that part of the question, he would refer to the Budget of 1863; and here he had to thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving a true but fearful description of the condition of Ireland. He said truly that the attention of the people of this country had not been fully awakened to the amount of calamity which during the last few years had befallen that portion of the Empire. The right hon. Gentleman went through each particular head of production, and he proved to the satisfaction of all who heard him that the loss that year reached £13,000,000, which approached the full amount of the estimated valuation of that country, namely, £13,400,000. The right hon. Gentleman then proceeded to explain how it was he did not get the million, and he said that if he did not get the whole he did a part of it. It was, however, a very small part, and he made an ingenious calculation, beginning the year at a different period to that when he persuaded the House to assent to his Resolutions in 1860, for the purpose of showing that his loss had not been really so great as it was; and he said that he admitted the principle to be to get what money he could, provided it did not increase illicit distillation, and he then a second time pronounced a deserved panegyric upon the eminent persons engaged in the trade, and of the importance of having their assent and support in the collection of this great revenue. His hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote), who was so well versed in financial matters, had obtained a Return relative to this subject, and it showed the net revenue, after deducting all drawbacks and allowances, from home made spirits for the five years commencing 1860. In that year the revenue was £9,778,960. In 1861 it was £9.225,538, showing a diminution of £553,422. So that instead of getting a million the diminution was about half a million. In 1862 there was a revenue of £9,618,291, and the decrease compared with the year in which he made the increase of duty was shown to be £160,669. In 1863 the revenue was £9,399,707, showing a decrease of £379,253, compared with 1860. Then there was the year 1864, which was estimated to reach £9,600,000, which would show a diminution of £178,960; and the Gentlemen who had prepared the Return had done what he was not called upon to do, and in endeavouring to make a case for the right hon. Gentleman added that the dealers, being apprehensive in 1860 that he was about to raise the duty, paid a large amount of duty in anticipation, which ought to be taken into account in reckoning the receipts of the present year. A Return moved for by his hon. Friend the Member for Dublin (Sir Edward Grogan) showed that the diminution in the manufacture of the article in Ireland had reached 5,000,000 gallons a year. The Return gave a comparison of the years 1838, 1839, and 1840, with 1858, 1859, and 1860. The diminution was enormous, for 1838 it was 12,296,342 gallons, against 5,335,774 gallons in 1860. A very useful Return was likewise obtained by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Moffatt), which showed an immense reduction on the amount of spirits distilled and upon which duty was paid in Ireland in 1863. All these Returns showed that the effect of raising the duty had been to diminish the consumption, and that while the right hon. Gentleman had only estimated the reduction of consumption consequent on the increase of duty at 10 per cent it amounted to 23 per cent. Before he entered upon the question of illicit distillation he would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the argument he used in 1863. He said that though he had not got his money illicit distillation had not increased, and he appealed to the opinions of the distillers in confirmation of that opinion. Now the opinion of the rectifying distillers of England were against the right hon. Gentleman. The hon, Gentle- man the Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford), had presented a petition to the House from the rectifying distillers of England. They set forth in that petition the effect of the varying scales of duty which continued up to 1859, and the reason assigned in 1860 for the increase of the duty was the necessity to provide for the increased expenditure which the country had to meet on account of the war in China. They stated that the annual revenue from the duty on spirits amounted to somewhere about £10,000,000 sterling, and it appeared by the Returns presented to Parliament that— Since the high rate of duty of 10s. per gallon was imposed, not only has a very considerable decrease in quantity consumed taken place, but that a large deficit in the annual revenue derived from duty on spirits has resulted. Your petitioners refer to these statements for the purpose of declaring their conviction, not that the quantity of spirit actually made in the country is less, but that a very large quantity of what in all probability is actually consumed is derived from the increase of resort to illegal means for making and vending spirits; and one among the several proofs we have confirming this view is, that one of our body was recently offered spirits of wine 63 per cent over proof, at the rate of 500 gallons per week, at very little more than half the duty of 10s. per gallon, to be delivered in bulk in champagne cases, lined with tin, so as to make it appear they were filled with wine—an extremely easy process to introduce illicit spirits among dealers and retailers without fear of detection. Then they said that the quantity manufactured was, in 1859, 23,878,688 gallons, when duty was 8s. per gallon; 1860, 21,338,448 gallons, at 8s. to July, when raised to 10s.; 1861, 19,514,201, at 13s.; 1862, 18.836,187, at 10s.; and that if they were challenged they could show that consumption had not been diminished, the extra quantity being supplied by illicit distillation. The fine-grain distillers to whom he had alluded, who paid the enormous revenue of three millions, stated their views to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a memorial to which they received a reply that the right hon. Gentleman could not adopt their views. The Scotch distillers had recently sent to him a document, in which they stated their belief that the duty should be uniform for Great Britain and Ireland at 8s. per gallon for British spirits, and they proceeded to state— The lamentable failure of the measure by which the duty was raised in 1860 to 10s. per gallon is too evident to need much proof. It was passed to produce an annual increase of revenue of £1,335,000: it has only produced £197,165, or £1,137,835 less than estimate. Had it not been for the rise of duty there is no reason to believe that duty-paid spirits would not have shared the constant increase of consumption which has taken place with all other duty-paying articles. The increase in duty-paid British spirits, which it was estimated would be from 10 to 11 per cent, has reached the enormous amount of 20 per cent. We submit that the chief cause of this astounding diminution is the constant increase of illicit distillation, which bids fair to prevent any further expansion of the spirit duties. They said that the amount of distillation had been decreased 20 per cent, and the high rate of duty in addition prevented all expansion of the home trade, and they also stated their belief that it had had the effect of greatly increasing illicit distillation, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not have failed to observe. The last Report of the Commission of Inland Revenue was, perhaps, not so satisfactory on this point as the right hon. Gentleman could have wished. They said— We do not deny that in one point of view the revenue accounts since the spirit duties were raised to their present rate have disappointed us. The consumption has undoubtedly decreased in a greater degree than we had expected, and although in the past year there were obvious abnormal causes operating towards this result, we cannot but feel great hesitation in making an estimate for the future. He thought this admission of the Commissioners decisive. He would take now the case of the Scotch distillers, who had drawn up an able petition, which had been presented to the House. They stated that prior to 1823 the Spirit Duty had been for some years retained at a high point, the result of which was that smuggling had increased to such an extent that the Government of the day, having found it impossible either to collect the revenue or to prevent illicit trade, reduced the duty. They then stated that they had embarked a large capital in the trade, believing the duty to be settled, and they besought the House to do them that justice which had been done to the foreign producers of brandy and rum. The Chancellor of the Exchequer returned the same answer to the Scotch distillers as he had done to others—that their memorial would be considered; which meant, in fact, that it would never be looked at. He contended that the opinion of Scotland was not to be relied on as favourable to the right hon. Gentleman. Within the last few days he had received a letter from Scotland in which the writer said it was the opinion of the Scotch distillers that there should be a uniform duty imposed, such as that which was settled by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, and that the lamentable failure of the measure by which the duty was raised in 1860 to 10s. was too evident to be denied. It also stated that there was a constant increase of illicit distillation, because the same quantity of spirits was consumed now as was done before the increase of the duty. The right hon. Gentleman, in speaking of the consuming power of the country and its expansive energies, had quoted those persons when in his favour, and the least tiling he could do now that they were against him was to give the same weight to their opinions He could speak with confidence with regard to the effect of the high duty of spirits in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had, in truth, decimated the distillers of that country, the effect of his measure having been to reduce them from 100 to 25. They also troubled him with a memorial, in which they set out their case, and in formed him that the effect of the high duty would be to throw the trade into dishonest hands, that demoralization would become prevalent, and that it would produce no increase to the revenue. They said that all they submitted to the right hon. Gentleman had come to pass—that demoralization and illicit distillation had increased, with no gain to the Treasury, except the,£179,000, which some gentlemen said would have been greater if the duty had not been increased. The right hon. Gentleman had appealed to the opinion of the distillers of Ireland, who were men of the highest respectability, such as Messrs. Jamieson, Sir J. Romer, Messrs. Roe, and others; now he must throw their opinion overboard. Beyond doubt the high rate of the duty had greatly increased illicit distillation in Ireland. He had received the following letter and Return, showing the extent to which illicit distillation was, carried on in one part of the county of Tyrone:— Glenelly Rectory, Gortin, Newtownstewart. April 26, 1864. Dear Sir, — Observing that you have given notice of your intention to bring under the consideration of the House the subject of the reduction of the existing duties on spirits, I send you a Return, showing the extent to which, within a very limited district, illicit distillation has lately been carried on. The seizures have been made within less than four months by one party, consisting of a constable and three sub-constables, and within two miles of my glebe house. It is quite unnecessary for me to make any observation on the demoralizing tendency of the practice, as productive of drunkenness, and tending to further infractions of the law. I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with you, but I have a very great pleasure in being one of your constituents.—Very truly yours, E. M. CLARKE, J. P., Ex-Schol.-Rector of the Parish of Upper Badoney. To the right hon. J. Whiteside," &c. The Return was as follows:—On January 7, 1864, at Glenerin, in Upper Badony, there were seized, 1 stillhouse, still, still-head and worm, 100 gallons of singlings, 80 gallons of wort, 100 gallons of potale, and 50 bushels of grains; on January 29, at Dunlogan, county Derry, in Ballinarine, stillhouse, still, 350 gallons wort, and two prisoners; on February 19, Canontray-haugh, in Upper Badony, 1 barrel containing illicit matter; Keadycam, in Upper Bodeny, 1 stillhouse, kieve 2 barrels, 2 stone of malt, and — bushels of grains; on March 1, at Strahull, in Upper Badony, stillhouse, still, rieve 3 barrels, 30 gallons of singlings, 2 stone of malt, and 4 bushels of grains; on March 29, at Garvagh, in Upper Badony, 1 stillhouse, for the purpose of carrying on illicit distillation; on April 4, at Goles, in Upper Badony, 1 stillhouse, 60 bushels of grains, and 200 gallons of potale; on April 12, at Leaghs, in Upper Badony, stillhouse, and 350 gallons of wort; on April 14, at Keodycam, in Upper Badony, stillhouse, 30 bushels of grains, and 100 gallons of potale. He begged the right hon. Gentleman to notice the distinction between the sales of spirits by publicans who are under some control and the illicit traders who were under no control. It was a perfectly legitimate Motion to propose to the House that public-houses should be shut up on the Sabbath Day, for you have the power and the right to do it if you think fit; but what law or control had you over those persons who were possessed of stills, and manufactured an article and disposed of it at one half the price legitimate dealers could sell it at. They committed not only a crime in manufacturing it, but they were the cause of crime in others He had received some amusing letters in reference to it, and one which he would read, but the writer did not wish him to mention his name. It stated that it cost only a few shillings to set up a still beside a running water, whilst the facilities for disposing of the spirits were very great indeed. A dealer in Londonderry had written him as follows:— As a tobacco manufacturer and spirit retailer, pay a yearly licence of £20 18s. 11d. to the inland revenue. I can buy any quantity of illici whisky of real 'Innishowin,' so can any spirit retailer in this city. In fact, it is hawked about by sample during the day, and a delivery made at once if a bargain is made. The number of seizures or convictions for illicit distillation is no criterion by which to judge of the extent to which the traffic is at present carried on. The ' poteen' is sold from 7s. 6d. to 11s. per gallon, according to quality and strength. So they saw how successfully the illicit distiller could compete with the honest tradesman. A learned Judge in charging the grand jury at the late assizes, Donegal, referred to the fact of there being between twenty and thirty persons confined in the gaol for summary convictions against the revenue laws. No other county presented such a picture, the learned Judge observed, as the result of illicit distillation. The grand jury stated that the duty on spirits was so high, it now became impossible to put down illicit distillation. The learned Judge to whom he had alluded further stated that Ribbonism and agrarian outrage always accompanied illicit distillation, and wherever the spirit-stills abounded there arose a plentiful crop of crime. The result of all this was that there had been laid upon the table of the House a Return which completely refuted all the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to the anticipated increase of legitimate distillation. The Return had been summarized in a morning paper in this way—That in the year ended March, 1864, there were 2,743 detections and 411 convictions for offences against the Excise laws. Taking the last three months only, namely, the first three months of 1864, and comparing them with the corresponding months of 1863, he found that while in January, 1863, there had been in the county of Donegal 74 detections, the number in January, 1864, had increased to 140, with only 17 convictions. In February, 1863, the number of detections was 98, the convictions 23; this year the numbers were 148 and 38. In March of the present year the detections had been 129 in that one county. It was, then, impossible to maintain the duty at so high a figure that it led to increased illicit distillation and crime, and drove out of the trade the highly respectable and honourable men who found that they could not carry on the trade under the present duties—gentlemen to whose opinion the right hon. Gentleman referred when they were in favour of his views, but which he rejected when their opinions were opposed to his own. The manufacture of spirits in Ireland was a very important trade. It was intimately connected with the agricultural interest, with the farming class, with those who fattened cattle and kept dairies; and if the right hon. Gentleman persevered in crushing these interests by the weight of the duties, he did an irreparable injury, and brought himself within the criticism of the Edinburgh Review, the organ of the old Whig party with which he was now so inseparably connected, that the current of his fiscal legislation of late had been altogether detrimental to the interests of Ireland. In 1853, and again in 1858, the right hon. Gentleman stated to the House that he was sure of obtaining as large an amount of money by a diminution of duty as with the higher rate. But, thinking it desirable to check drunkenness, he raised the duty. The consequence had been an increase of illicit distillation, and an increase of drunkenness. This being so, was it not a fair appeal that he now made to the right hon. Gentleman to take the whole of the circumstances connected with the morality and industry of Ireland, as affected by the spirit duties, into his serious consideration? The right hon. Gentleman had admitted the great extent of the misfortunes of Ireland. But what had he done to administer relief? Positively nothing. Yes, the Government had thrown them into Chancery. Not a single Irish Bill was upon the table except a Chancery Bill. This was not a pleasant subject to discuss at present. "Sufficient for the day was the evil thereof." There was another point he had omitted to mention, which was that the publicans throughout the country were driven, by the enormous duty on spirits, and the consequent increase of illicit distillation, to resort to poisonous adulterations, and thus the people were injured both mentally and physically—maddened, in fact, by the adulterated drink; whereas there were abundant proofs that pure Irish whisky, when taken, not as the Scotchman took it, but drank as an Irishman and an Englishman drank it, injured neither the mind nor the body. The right hon. Gentleman was scarcely aware of the extent of the adulteration. By the fraudulent skill of the chemist the methyl was extracted from the methyllated spirit admitted duty free, and the spirits to some extent rendered potable and forced into the market to the injury of the revenue. It was the same case of the brandied wine, three-fifths of the spirit was im- ported duty free. It was clear that if these large duties were to be maintained there must be a very considerable increase in the number of detectives, a much greater vigilance would have to be exercised, and the police must be more liberally paid. It was true that a large number of detections had been made; but this was the symptom only of the malady, not a proof that the disease had been subdued. It was clear, then, that the right hon. Gentleman's experiment had failed, and the best thing he could do was to retrace his steps.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that the existing Duties on Spirits should be reduced." —(Mr. Whiteside,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he admitted that the right hon. Gentleman was fully entitled to call attention to this subject—not so much, perhaps, in deference to his particular constituents, who would hardly recognise him on this occasion as discharging any special duties they had committed to him, as in deference to the interests of the important trade whose cause he had pleaded with so much moderation and ability. The right hon. Gentleman had himself made an admission which he must feel bore very materially on this point—that the question they had now to deal with did not affect the case of Ireland alone, but involved the rate of spirit duty to be levied for the three kingdoms. The right hon. Gentleman had stated—and with truth, provided the application of the remark was kept within certain limits—that he, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was bound to show that any measure proposed for the entire kingdom was applicable to every portion of the kingdom. The case, however, did not stand now as it stood in 1842, when Sir Robert Peel, having laid an additional duty on spirits in Ireland, and an increase of smuggling appearing to be traceable to that augmentation, came down himself and proposed the removal of the additional duty. It would not have been equally easy to adopt that course; in fact, its policy would have been very doubtful, if the duties in the three kingdoms had been uniform, as they were afterwards made by successive measures of Sir George Lewis and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) went back to the year 1853, when he himself proposed to the House to take the first step in the policy of equalization—not at all concealing that equalization was the ultimate aim, but stating at the same time that he was not so sanguine as to anticipate that equalization could be obtained without an augmentation in Ireland and Scotland and a reduction in England. At that time he should certainly have thought it sanguine to anticipate that even an 8s. duty could be Levied through the three kingdoms; but the result of the augmentation of 1853–4 was so satisfactory, that each step in that direction warranted encouragement —nay, even seemed imperatively to demand the step by which it was succeeded, until they came to the limit where the 8s.; duty was made uniform through the three kingdoms. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) said that when the 8s. duty was imposed on Irish spirits it was regarded by the parties interested as a final arrangement. He certainly could not bear out that statement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer of 1858 did not pronounce any such opinion, and he would have been; most unwise if he had. The principle on; which Parliament had always acted with respect to the spirit duties was to impose on that article the highest amount of duty which it was possible to levy, without increasing illicit distillation, and the mere statement of that proposition was sufficient to show that the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in supposing that the 8s. duty was regarded as a final settlement. The further augmentation which was proposed, the right hon. gentleman seemed to think the step from a wise to an unwise policy. Perhaps it was hardly worth while correcting the inaccuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, that this augmentation was made to pay the bill for the China war, which had sprung up during the first Administration of the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston). The bill for that China war had been paid; it was to pay the little bill for another China war which broke out under the Earl of Malmesbury, who was Foreign Secretary of the Administration with which the right hon. Gentleman was himself connected, that that measure had to be resorted to. But, though the augmentation was made on that occasion, it would be quite an error to imagine that the proposal was then invented. It was a proposal held steadily in view by the Revenue Department, which had been mentioned before anybody was aware that such an exigency would occur; and the only question was, whether the time was then ripe for it, or whether its adoption should be postponed? All previous experience was in favour of it. It was perfectly true that all the increase of revenue which he had calculated upon had not been received; but the right hon. Gentleman, who had studied his speeches so closely, would recollect he did not rest the case exclusively on an anticipation of increased revenue, but that he explicitly laid down the principle that whatever revenue was to be raised from spirits it was desirable that it should be raised from as small a consumption as possible. In dealing with tea, sugar, and such articles, the principle was to raise the revenue by a duty as low as possible, in order not to interfere with the expansion of trade; but the exact reverse of that principle was applicable to spirits, and it was sought to raise the largest revenue which could be got from the smallest area of consumption. He could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the observation made by the Revenue Department in the Return to which he referred to prove the failure of his measure was needless and calculated to mislead. On the contrary, without it the Return would have been fallacious. If it were true that the spirit revenue of 1859–60 was a just and safe basis from which to reason as to the increase or decrease of the duty in subsequent years, the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman might be an accurate one; but, on the contrary, it was demonstrable that the revenue of 1859–60 had been considerably swelled by the premature delivery of spirits, in order to escape from an anticipated increase of duty. The proof of the justice of his statement was to be found in the fact, that the revenue derived from spirits during the first four months of the years 1860–1, when there was no anticipation whatever of an augmentation of the duty, and, therefore, no motive for the premature delivery of spirits from bond, fell greatly below the revenue of the preceding year. Now, that circumstance was, he contended, to be explained in no other possible way than by the supposition that towards the close of the previous financial year a much larger quantity of spirits had been taken out of bond than was necessary to supply the wants of the dealer. If that were so, it was plain that the year 1859–60 absorbed a considerable portion of the revenue due to 1860–1, and to that extent was not to be taken as a fair standard of comparison for subsequent years. The right hon. Gentleman, he might add, had omitted to take into account in the argumentative Dart of his statement another most important portion of the case. The substance of his argument was that the duty on spirits ought to be reduced for the sake of the distillers in this country. But that argument looked not simply to the effect to be produced in illicit distillation, but to an augmentation in the consumption of spirits. The right hon. Gentleman in one portion of his speech delivered a most cogent argument against the diminution of the duty on malt, and it was plain that a Motion with that object would not receive his support; but be that as it might, he pressed that the duty on spirits should be reduced, while he failed to show whence the money was to be procured for the purpose. He contended, indeed, that there was an increase of £170,000, which sum might be secured to the revenue by means of an increased consumption; but he seemed altogether to forget the duties on foreign and colonial spirits, which, at the present increased rate of duty, yielded nearly £500,000 a year. How was that sum to be made up? Was it out of the diminution of illicit distillation in Ireland? If not, did the right hon. Gentleman mean to propose that the duty on spirits should be reduced with the prospect of the reduction causing a deficiency in the revenue? There were two questions to be considered in dealing with the matter. He would, in the first place, ask whether, if the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman were acceded to, the Exchequer would be likely to obtain the money which he promised; and in the second place whether, if that money could be obtained, the House would be justified by the prospect in making the proposed reduction. Now, in reply to the first question he would say, that he did not think we could obtain the money; while he was also of opinion that the House would not be justified in obtaining it unless it could be shown that it was to be done by the diminution of illicit distillation. That point of illicit distillation was in reality the only one on which the right hon. Gentleman was able to rely. He touched indeed, but only very lightly, on the subject of adulteration, while he must admit that there were many causes in operation which pressed on the distiller independent of the augmentation of the duty. Such, for instance, was the greatly increased consumption of tea and wine, which tended to restrain the consumption of spirits. If the 3,000,000 gallons of wine added to the consumption of the country within the last three years were taken into consideration, the fact would account for the disappearance of something like 1,000,000 gallons of spirits, Besides, the consumption of beer was gaining greatly on that of spirits, and he should not, under those circumstances, be surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman propose that the duty on malt should be doubled. The number of beer-houses in Dublin, as stated by his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland the other night, had increased from 3 to 370 during the last few years. Thus beer, which was lightly taxed in consequence of the lowness of the malt duty, had been constantly pressing on the business of the distiller. Again the competition of foreign spirits was undoubtedly an element in the case. Very nearly at the same time that the augmented duty on British spirits was adopted, there was also adopted the practical equalization of duty as between British and Foreign spirits. There were, in addition, other causes of pressure under which the distillers in Ireland might have suffered. At the time of the augmentation of the duty, the Legislature sought to improve the position of the distiller with regard to the Excise, and also gave him facilities for export by the allowance of a drawback, which he did not before enjoy, Those facilities operated in England, and in Scotland more especially, to the encouragement of an export trade, which he was afraid was not to the same extent developed in Ireland; but he saw no reason why the Irish distiller should not seek in the same direction some compensation for the reduction of his trade. The right hon. Gentleman, he might add, did not, as he had before observed, dwell at any length on the subject of adulteration, although he might have found in a poet who dealt with Irish questions a complete bearing on the point which would have furnished an illustration for his argument— Poor Paddy, of all Christian men, I think, On basest food pours down the vilest drink. That was a sort of synopsis of the case as to adulteration, but the poet had too much good sense and knowledge of political eco- nomy to attribute it all to the augmentation of the spirit duties. It was true that spirits were commonly adulterated; the adulteration of food seemed, indeed, to be a special and distinct characteristic of this country; but in none of the spirits which had been purchased in small quantities by officers of the revenue had any adulterations of a pernicious character been discovered.

Having thus cleared the ground of other matters, he desired to draw the attention of the House more closely than had hitherto been done to that which was the turning point of the case — the question of illicit distillation. Here the right hon. Gentleman had the vague and general statements of a portion of the body of distillers— statements which, whenever they had been investigated, had proved to be entirely without support—and the Returns of the number of detections which had been presented to that House. He would begin by showing the worst of the case first. In the financial year ending in March, 1861, the detections amounted to 1,585; and in 1862 they rose to 2,110, but even then they were less than in the last year of the lower duty. The right hon. Gentleman saw no wisdom in any one but the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. It seemed that 8s. was the precise point that wisdom indicated; that it was the duty of the Government to go to that point, and not to go beyond it. He was not finding fault with the measure of the right hon. Gentleman; he was only objecting to the attempt to distinguish between that measure and others in the series of which it was only a step; and he would presently show what was the number of detections in the year 1859. In 1862 the detections rose to 2,110; in 1863 they fell to 1,972, and in 1864 they rose to 2,742. That was the case of the hon. and learned Gentleman. Now for the answer:—First, was there any special cause of recognized and uniform operation which would account for this measure? And, secondly, how did this increase stand compared with that of former years? The special cause was perfectly notorious. It was the state of the oat crop. Whenever there was in Ireland a large quantity of grain of a very low quality, and consequently of a very low price, especially when, as was the case last year, a great deal of that grain was hardly marketable at all, an additional portion found its way into illicit distillation. The price of oats in Ireland in March, 1862, was 14s. 2½ d. per barrel; in 1863, 13s. 8d.; and in 1864, 12s. 8d. Nor did this decline fully represent the case. These were the prices in the market of Dublin; but in the towns which were the centres which supplied the districts where illicit distillation prevailed, in the markets of Derry, Donegal, Sligo, Galway, and Mayo, the price did not, he was told, exceed 8d, per stone, or 9s. 4d. per barrel. That being so, the relative augmentation of illicit distillation was a matter of course. The question, however, was not whether in a particular year there was an augmentation of illicit distillation, which was thoroughly accounted for by circumstances, but whether there was a normal augmentation extending over a series of years. The right hon. Gentleman said that if this duty was to be maintained they must have a better, and better paid police force. The police was better than it was, the constabulary had been substituted for the revenue police, and the consequence was, owing to the superior numbers of the former employed on the work, that these Returns were more trustworthy than they ever were before. Having stated the number of detections in the worst year since the imposition of the highest rate of duty, he would go back to 1836. In the year 1836, when the duty was 2s. 4d. a gallon, the detections amounted to 3,323. It would be said that since 1836 there had been a great change in the state of the country. Then he would go to the favourite year of the hon. and learned Gentleman, when supreme wisdom dictated the measures taken with regard to the spirit duty. In the year ending March, 1859, the detections for illicit distillation numbered 3,172; that was 400 more than in the year just expired, although the year 1858 was, if he remembered rightly, a year of good harvest, and consequently of a good condition of grain. While the year just expired had been a bad year, especially in regard to the quality of the grain. How then, in the face of these facts, could the hon. and learned Gentleman assert that the increase in illicit distillation was due to the operation of the new duty? Moreover, the diminution of the number of detections did not sufficiently indicate the measure of the diminution of the crime of illicit distillation. It was necessary, also, to take into account the number of persons arrested. The number of persons arrested in Ireland in the year 1852, the year before the increasing of the duty was commenced, was 492; in 1862, under the full operation of the high duty, it sunk to 103; and, although in 1864 it rose under the influence of the causes to which he had referred to 198, that was considerably less than half the number at which it stood in 1852. And when he spoke of illicit distillation and discussed the operation and success of a measure of this kind, the right hon. Gentleman must remember that illicit distillation was known in England and Scotland as well as in Ireland; and considering that about three-fourths of the spirit duty were raised in England and Scotland, it was necessary, in estimating the operation of an addition to that duty with reference to illicit distillation, to look at the figures for those countries. The numbers indicated were very much smaller than were those in Ireland, but the cases were more considerable. In England and Scotland illicit distillation was carried on not in out of the way places, but in the great towns and near to the markets. In March, 1859, the, last year but one of the 8s. duty in England, the detections for illicit distillations were 195; in 1860 they were 126. In 1861, the first year of the high duty, the detections, still falling, were 111 in number; in 1862 there were 114, in 1863 they had fallen to 105, and in 1864 to 79. According to all the evidence applicable to the case, he believed there never was a period when illicit distillation in England stood at so low a point. In Scotland, for the year ending the 31st of March, 1859, the detections were 37 in number; in the next year, 29; in 1861 they fell to 18; in 1862 they were 23; in 1863, 26; and in 1864 they had fallen to 13, or little more than a third of what they were before the additional duty was imposed. He could not conceive by what process of reasoning it could be contended that illicit distillation was increasing, when these figures showed a continual decline, and when the energy of the preventive force was at its height. As regarded the fiscal operation of the measure, he would admit that the product was much less than he had already stated. In the current financial year, however, as far as it had gone, there had been an increase in both the home and foreign spirit duties of about £60,000 per month. The fiscal result of the measure had only been partially achieved; but the gain, whatever its amount, was obtained in conjunction with another advantage — a limitation of the consumption of ardent spirits, which were not only evils in themselves, but fruitful parents of crime. He hoped the House would not accede to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, but would resolve itself into Committee of Supply.


said, he did not intend to trouble the House at any length; but there were one or two points in the speech of the right hon Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer which he could not allow to pass without observation. In the first place, the Chancellor of the Exchequer accused his right hon. Friend of pleading the cause of the Irish distillers and of "the trade." Now that argument was a very inadequate description of the case. The case pleaded was not the case of "the trade" or of the Irish distillers, but of a country—of Ireland. A key to the line of argument adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be found when he said that the reduction of I duty proposed by Sir Robert Peel was one made under entirely different circumstances —that it was made at a time when the Irish duties differed from the English duties. He said that a measure which might be proper when a separate rate of duties existed might not be equally advisable when one uniform rate had been established, as was the case now. That was so; but in applying the principle of uniform duties the right hon. Gentleman forgot that the strength of a chain was to be tested by the strength of its weakest link, and it was to no purpose that he quoted the success of the system in England and Scotland, if it could be shown that a 10s. duty was higher than Ireland could bear; and if it could be proved that an uniform duty did not succeed in Ireland, when it succeeded in England and Scotland, surely that was a matter for grave consideration, with reference to the necessity for modification? It had been urged by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) that the calculations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the proposed increase in 1860 had been doomed to disappointment; but the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to his great surprise stated that it was a matter of secondary importance whether his judgment on that point were correct or not.


explained. He had declared it to be a matter of secondary consequence whether he put the proper construction on certain facts at the time; he never said that it was a matter of secondary importance whether his official calculations were sound.


said, his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on being asked how it was that, in introducing his new duty, he did not include in his view the large quantity of spirits taken out of bond at the close of the financial year 1859–60, admitted that it certainly was an oversight on his part, and added that the subsequent experience of the officers of Revenue had thrown further light on the matter. But his right hon. Friend's memory must be exceedingly short, because in his speech introducing the Supplementary Budget on the 16th of July, he plainly showed that this great augmentation in the delivery of spirits from bond had been brought under his notice; in fact, he made it part of his argument. This increase of the spirit duties, moreover, was not part of a great system of policy laying down the principles upon which those duties should be levied in future; it was strictly and purely a money question, the proposal being made at a late period of the Session, after the financial arrangements of the year were concluded, and expressly to meet a deficiency which only then became apparent. The right hon. Gentleman told them in his Budget speech in the following year, that he had expected to get £400,000 more from these duties than they had yielded in 1859–60; but that, instead of producing £400,000 more, they yielded £550,000 less, so that the total disappointment to the right hon. Gentleman that year was represented by a sum of £950,000. The £400,000, moreover, was only the amount estimated to be got in during the remnant of a financial year, a further increase of £350,000 being looked for in the year ensuing. To complete the statement of the results ensuing from this change of duty it would, therefore, be necessary to add that £350,000 to the deficit in the year following. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman got more than he expected upon colonial and foreign spirits; but his calculations and expectations when he raised the duty on homemade spirits from 8s. to 10s. must be regarded as a great failure in a fiscal point of view. He did not know where the right hon. Gentleman had derived his figures in regard to the revenue from spirits, because they were not to be found in the papers before the House. Yet, although the right hon. Gentleman had made a very considerable miscalculation by not taking into account the particular position of Ireland as regarded the other parts of the United Kingdom, he still doubted whether the House ought at once to pronounce against the experiment the right hon. Gentleman had made. It had only been tried for three years, and its failure in a fiscal point of view did not prove that the House ought to reverse its policy, which had never been to stimulate the consumption of ardent spirits as it had done in the case of tea and coffee. Still his right hon. and learned Friend had shown that, while the increase of duty had done great harm to Ireland by encouraging illicit distillation, it had done no good to the revenue. There was, however, a Committee sitting upstairs to inquire into the whole subject of Irish taxation, and the effect of recent legislation upon the fiscal burdens of Ireland. No doubt this question of raising the Spirit Duties to 10s. per gallon would come before the Committee in due course, and the evidence they were taking might throw considerable light on the matter. He would, therefore, suggest to his right hon. and learned Friend, in the interest of his country and the cause which he had so fairly and so ably brought before the House, that it would be better to wait until they saw the evidence taken before the Committee, and the judgment they formed upon it. It was impossible, on other grounds, to call upon the Government at present to reduce the duty, because a large amount of revenue might be imperilled by a considerable reduction. His right hon. and learned Friend had every reason to be satisfied with the discussion, and he trusted that he would not press the matter to a division.


wished to explain the misconstruction referred to. It was true that in July, 1860, he stated that there were extra deliveries; but the mistake was in supposing that the assumed effect of those deliveries had been exhausted in the period between February and the end of the financial year, whereas experience showed that the effect was fully felt after the close of the financial year. With regard to the deficiency of £900,000, he stated all the particulars in regard to it in the financial statement of that year.


expressed his extreme disappointment and dissatisfaction at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which had held out no hope to Ireland for the future. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, contrary to his usual course, had ad- mitted that he had been disappointed in both his anticipations—that he had not succeeded in raising the revenue be expected, and that illicit distillation had greatly increased. [The Chancellor of the EXCHEQUER intimated dissent.] But the right hon. Gentleman had not given out one word of hope that the present demoralizing effects of his measure would be diminished.. He (Lord Claud Hamilton) had received a great number of letters from magistrates in Ireland, stating how crime had increased in consequence of this recent legislation. From one well-known magistrate, intimately connected with the counties of Donegal, Armagh, and Tyrone, he heard that not at any former period was there such an amount of illicit distillation. A collateral inconvenience from this illicit distillation was, that the police, occupied in what was called "still hunting" night after night, were unable to attend to their ordinary duties. If the right hon. Gentleman denied that the measure had failed as regarded Ireland, it was surprising that such denial was made in the face of published documents. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the increased consumption of beer, tea, and wine; but it appeared that as the licit production was decreasing, the illicit production was on the increase. One of the first effects of a large increase of duty was to throw the distilling trade into much fewer hands—to twenty-three hands, he believed, where ninety had previously been engaged, and the concentration of distillers in a few towns, who formerly were scattered over the country; the result was, the farmers could find no local sale for their damaged grain, and were thus driven to dispose of it for illicit distillation. Under these circumstances he wished to know how the right hon. Gentleman proposed to meet the evil. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to Sir Robert Peel's policy; but when Sir Robert Peel saw that the measure which he had introduced had not the desired effect of increasing the revenue, but had stimulated the illicit trade, he reversed his policy, and repealed the additional duty. But the right hon. Gentleman did not propose to do so. He merely asked how was he to treat the foreign manufacturer and the Scotch manufacturer if he was to reduce the duty upon Irish spirits? But he (Lord Claud Hamilton) looked upon the question as a great moral and social one, and paramount to every fiscal consideration. The demoralization was not confined to those only who were engaged in the illicit trade. No one put up a still without engaging his neighbours to act as spies for him against the police; and therefore it was not merely one man, but thirty or forty men, that were engaged in resisting the law. A learned Judge (Mr. Justice Hayes) had warned the people of the evil of engaging in such a course as that, how it led from venial offences by little and little to penal servitude and the gallows; and he further observed that it appeared from the face of the police Returns, that the fruits of this practice were a greater prevalence of assaults against the person, threatening letters, and incendiary crimes. It was not right that the police should have been turned into a revenue force to put down illicit distillation, for then it had become impossible for them, without a great increase to their number, to perform efficiently their ordinary duties. He, however, did not appear here as the distiller's advocate. If it was possible to raise the tax without producing crime, he, for one, would readily consent to the increase; he only protested against a fiscal arrangement that produced crime and demoralization. He trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would re-consider this matter, and deal with it as one of vital importance to the moral and social well-being of Ireland.


said, there could be no difference of opinion as to the great evil of the practice of illicit distillation. It was possible that that practice had of late years increased in a few districts in Ireland; but he believed that there had been no general increase of that kind. Indeed, the Returns presented to Parliament actually showed that there had been in Ireland a smaller number of convictions for that offence during the last few years, than there had been during former years when the duty had stood at its lowest amount. It was alleged that one of the evils of the existing state of the law was, that it had contributed to reduce the number of distilleries in Ireland. But he believed that that reduction was owing mainly to the growth of more temperate habits among the people. The fact was, that there had been a steady decrease in the number of distilleries in Ireland ever since Father Mathew had commenced the temperance movement. The number of those establishments in 1840 was eighty-six, in 1846 it was fifty-four, in 1852 it was forty-six, in 1853 it was forty, in 1859 it was thirty-seven, and in 1862 it was twenty-seven. That gradual decrease was to be accounted for by the diminution of the demand for whisky, owing to the temperance movement, the decrease in the population, the increased consumption of tea and beer, and in some measure the change of system upon which distillation was carried on. It was a remarkable fact that the production of whisky in Scotland had considerably increased since the higher duty had been imposed. In the year 1854, when the duty was 3s. 8d. or 4s. 8d. per gallon, Scotland had produced 10,000,000 gallons of spirits; and now, under a duty of 10s. a gallon, the production of spirits in that country amounted to 14,000,000 or 15,000,000 of gallons annually. That increase seemed to be principally owing to the employment in Scotland of patent machinery in the work of distillation, and the result was, that the Scotch were at present able to undersell the Irish distillers in their own market. If the Irish wished to compete with the Scotch in that manufacture they should use the same improved machinery. The Irish distillers, for the most part, confined their attention to the production of whisky for the consumption of their own countrymen; he confessed that, for his part, he was not sorry to find that the sale of whisky had of late years declined in Ireland, because he believed that that circumstance was principally attributable to the more temperate habits of the people, and to their vastly increased consumption of tea and beer. He had no desire, on the other hand, to see any measure adopted which would diminish the price of whisky in Ireland, and until the hon. and learned Gentleman was able to show—what he had hitherto failed in doing—that the high duties had produced illicit distillation, he should regret to see any steps taken which would tend to the increase of distillation, and not to the increase of the national morality.


said, he had always been of opinion that the spirit duties ought to be put at the very highest amount which would be compatible with the prevention of illicit distillation. But if it could be proved that the increased duty had had the effect of greatly increasing illicit distillation with all its attendant evils, that would, no doubt, be a subject for the serious consideration of the House. What he principally complained of, however, was that while the duty had been enormously increased of late years, no corresponding increase had taken place in the police measures adopted for the purpose of preventing illicit distillation. Experience proved that, with proper precautions, an increase of duty need not be attended with an increase of illicit distillation; for the fact was, that there was a smaller amount of that latter evil when the duty had been raised to 8s. than when it had stood at a much lower sum. The practice of illicit distillation seemed to be at present confined to a few districts in Ireland, although in those districts it was no doubt extremely rife and mischievous; and he should be glad to hear that the Government were prepared to have recourse to some more stringent measures than they had yet adopted for the purpose of checking the evil. He believed that the transference from the old revenue police to the constabulary of the duty of preventing illicit distillation had been attended with the best possible results, and he could not help thinking that if the Government would add to the number of constables in the districts in which that distillation specially prevailed—a measure which would necessitate, it was true, a large increase of expenditure—it would go far to eradicate the practice. One of the unfortunate consequences of the present system was, that the spirit sold to the poorer classes were of a very inferior and even of a very deleterious description. A poor man had lately told him that five or six glasses of whisky formerly had no effect upon him, but that two glasses at present made him not only drunk but mad. He was convinced that unless illicit distillation was checked in Ireland the Government would be compelled to reduce the spirit duties. He sincerely hoped, however, that that would not be done, because he believed that spirits formed the most legitimate object of taxation; and he was, therefore, most anxious to see effectual measures adopted for the prevention of illicit distillation. He quite agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for Limerick, that the recent decrease in the consumption of spirits in Ireland was a subject not of alarm and regret, but of satisfaction and congratulation.


intimated that he would not press his Motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.