HC Deb 15 June 1865 vol 180 cc264-80

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed. "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)


said, that this Bill would, in his opinion, redress part of the just grievance of the barley growers, and he therefore supported it. He had declined to offer any opinion on the subject of the Malt Tax in the discussion on the Budget, as he entirely approved the remissions made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But the right hon. Gentleman, though he had since modified his language, spoke so strongly against the policy of any future reduction of the Malt Tax, that he felt desirous of presenting some points on the subject for his consideration. He held that a tax which impeded the growth of barley was injurious to the agriculture of this country. Of all corn crops, barley was the most friendly to the farmer. It was the shortest time in the ground, was the least exhaustive of the soil, was sown at the best season for cleaning and cultivating it, while it formed the best preparation for grass, and was the most suitable to follow green crops. Independent of its own value, barley farming thus promoted good husbandry, and the growth of those crops which were necessary for the production of meat, dairy produce, and wool. Now, the production of meat in this country was becoming every year a matter of increasing importance. Previous to the great development of trade and industry, the consequence of recent financial legislation, a large proportion of the working classes in the country could not afford to eat meat more than once a week. It would be a most moderate computation to say that a million of persons were so circumstanced, and when by better wages these persons were enabled to eat meat daily the increase of consumption so far became at once sixfold. Prices were thus rapidly rising, and larger demands were yearly being made upon the farmer for fat cattle and sheep. It had been said that a penny in the pound of income tax made a difference to the revenue of the country of a million and a quarter, but a penny a pound on the price of meat was equal to one million and a quarter sterling on the annual consumption of the metropolis alone, and if they took that of the United Kingdom they would find that the increase of every penny on the pound of butcher's meat would cost the people not less than ten millions sterling. The rise in the price of meat during the last ten or fifteen years was equal to twenty millions sterling per annum. Here was far more than an equivalent for the loss of the Malt Duty to the revenue. If, by a change in our mode of agriculture, we could to some extent, even if not to the full extent, meet the increasing demand for butcher's meat, we should be fully compensated. And we must reckon not only on the increasing appetite of the existing population, but on the demands from the increase of population. That went on at a rate which would absorb every three years the whole of the fat stock produced in Scotland. Foreign countries could not meet the demand. The imports of foreign stock seemed to have reached their maximum. The same causes were at work abroad as at home in producing an increased demand for butcher's meat. Increased wages everywhere were followed by increased consumption. Now, the substitution of barley for wheat in his course of crops would at once enable the farmer to increase his production of meat. In former times, under protective duties, wheat, from its comparatively high price, was unduly forced into culture. On clay land especially it was looked to exclusively, so much so that many farmers thought such land unsuited to barley. But the gradual rise in the price of barley, and the fall in that of wheat, had encouraged the growth of barley on clay soil, to the great advantage of the farmer and the more economical and better cultivation of his farm. The strong clays, which were formerly thought not fit for barley, would in fact produce heavier crops, though not of the finest malting qualities, than the best barley lands. In the neighbourhood of Home Bay no less than ten quarters of barley per acre had last year been grown upon the stiffest of clay soils. Wheat required to be sown in the autumn; and it was obviously a great advantage where, as in the case of barley crops, the farmers could take a green crop, say of mangolds, off the land before it was wanted for sowing in the spring. He could plough and sow in better season, and might grow green crops in many instances, and thus feed sheep and cattle where, under the old wheat system, that was impossible. A barley farmer could scarcely be a bad farmer. His corn crop not only was less severe upon the land, but it was preceded and followed by green crops and grass, which restored fertility. He, therefore, maintained that it would be an immense advantage to British agriculture, and to the increased production of meat, dairy produce, and wool, if barley could, to a large extent, be substituted for wheat. He was quite aware of the fact that barley had risen in value more than any other kind of corn, and of the force of the argument which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had based upon that fact. From 1800 to 1850 one bushel of wheat was worth two of barley. Since 1850 barley had more nearly approached the price of wheat, and the moment barley became nearly equal to wheat in value it would be largely substituted as a crop for it. There was another reason: the farmer could grow a much larger crop of barley than of wheat on the same land. The amount would probably be from 5½ to 6 quarters of barley instead of 4 quarters of wheat, besides giving to the farmer greater facilities in the production of butchers' meat. It was no satisfactory answer to say that this advance in the price of barley had taken place under the disadvantages of a heavy exceptional tax. The owners and occupiers of clay land in this country needed all the fair play they could get. The fact that barley could, even with a heavy malt duty, be grown with more profit than wheat, was no reason for continuing an exceptional tax. Barley was the wine crop of this country. As the people became better off they took more of that which was the produce of it, and that was the reason that the price had risen more than that of any other crop. But it would rise still further, and be still more remunerative but for this heavy duty. Agriculturists did not ask any class advantage— any return to protective duties or legislative encouragements. They asked simply to be placed on the same footing as the hop grower, the potato grower, the coal-owner, or the ironmaster, that our raw produce should not be subjected to exceptional taxation. The farmers of the heavy clay lands especially deserved the sympathies of the Legislature. They wanted no protection; but what they did ask for, and this they had a right to demand, was that no exceptional taxation should be laid on the articles which they produced, the effect of which would be unfairly to limit their use. Though it was true, as recently remarked by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the price of barley had of late been enhanced more than other portions of the agriculturist's produce, the rise would have been still greater without the present burden on the cultivation. The right hon. Gentleman, in arguing the question on a former occasion, had referred——


Let me point out to the hon. Gentleman that this is not a fitting occasion to reply to a speech made in a former debate and on another subject. This is not the continuance of a debate on the same Bill.


said, he would avoid any reference to the former debate, and would confine his observations entirely to the effect of the Malt Tax upon the agriculture of the country. With regard to the argument of injustice to Scotland in the matter of the spirit duty, that had not been advanced by any Scotchman. The consumption of whisky in that country was decreasing, and that of beer steadily increasing. He was informed that the quantity of malt used in Edinburgh in brewing beer had risen from 32,000 quarters in 1854 to 150,000 quarters in 1864, and that from two causes—first, the increased price of spirits; and secondly, the improved quality of the beer. A change from raw spirits to beer was one which all wise men commended, and any policy which would tend that way would not be unjust to Scotland. One word with regard to the interests of the consumers of beer. In every country, except England, milk was much used as an article of food by the mass of the people. In Scotland, Ireland, on the Continent, and in North America milk was much used. But it could not be had by the people of this country, and every year milk was becoming more scarce and dear. Home-brewed ale was an excellent substitute. An hon. Friend of his, who had had much experience, told him that he never knew a bad or inefficient labourer who brewed his own beer. He had not the temptation of the beerhouse to spend his money, and take him away from his family. He must for these reasons venture to urge upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he should again have a surplus to dispose of—in the interest not only of the agriculturist, but of the consumer—the great advantage there would be in the removal of any impediment which the present malt duty might produce upon the extended cultivation of barley in this country, and he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give to the question of the repeal of this tax his most favourable consideration. A heavy tax on an article of home growth—the wine of the country—which in England drove the people to the public-house, and which impeded the best and most reproductive system of farming, could not but deserve the most careful consideration of the House.


said, he felt bound to express his great satisfaction that a Gentleman so eminently qualified to deal with the subject, and so familiar with it in all its details, should have directed his attention and that of the House to the bearing of the tax upon the agriculture of the country. There was another point in connection with the question, the importance of which could scarcely be overrated—namely, the effect of the Malt Tax upon the price of meat. All who had experience and had fairly and impartially considered that branch of the subject, were perfectly satisfied that it was one which bore upon the interest of the entire community, but more especially that portion of it who were unable to indulge more than once or twice in the week in the—to them—luxury of a single plateful of butcher's meat. The kindred Bill, for taking off the duty upon malt for feeding cattle, had been framed, he had no doubt, in an excellent spirit; but, unfortunately, it had been hampered by every sort of restriction and complication, and, moreover, had come before the House accompanied by the report of a gentleman of great experience, which went to show that the Bill would be almost entirely useless. He hoped, therefore, the time was approaching, and he believed it was, when the attention of Parliament would be directed to the distinct point whether this question of the repeal of the Malt Tax was not a labourer's question —a question concerning the interests of the lower and poorer classes of the community, rather than those of the agriculturists and the owners of land. With regard to the Bill before the House there was very little to be said on the one side or the other. It was well meant, he had no doubt, and in those periods which occasionally occurred, sometimes one or two years in succession, when from causes connected with the weather the greater quantity of the barley produced was light and inferior in character, the Bill would have the effect of giving considerable relief to the producers of barley and the manufacturers of malt by indirectly doing that which he and others had vainly called upon the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to do by a partial mitigation of the tax. He would also say, in passing, that the standard of 531b. was wisely selected by the right hon. Gentleman both for the growers of barley and the manufacturers of malt. But here his commendation of the Bill must cease. He might, however, add, that it rather tended to create a faint and shadowy hope in the minds of those who had laboured for the repeal of the tax that in thus, without solicitation, framing this Bill, the right hon. Gentleman entertained some misgivings in his own mind and conscience as to the extent of the justice which he had meted out to the agriculturists and the consumers of beer. He feared, however, that it was a sentiment, he might almost say a principle, in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman that "the repeal of the Malt Tax would be the death warrant of indirect taxation." If that were so, if they had reason to fear that that principle had been adopted —not merely by a "prominent" Member, but by the most distinguished and potential Member of the present Government, they could not but apprehend that it was a principle which the Government, as long-as they might be intrusted with power by that House, would endeavour to carry into effect. This was not a question in which the farmers were exclusively, or even mainly, concerned. It was one directly affecting the poorer classes of the community, and he once more re- minded the House of the challenge he had offered to the right hon. Gentleman — namely, that if a Committee or a Commission were granted upon this subject he pledged himself to demonstrate that while the revenue derived only £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 a year from the malt duties, the sum paid by the beer consumers by reason of this tax was one-third of the entire price paid by them for beer. In the three kingdoms together this amounted to £60,000,000, and thus £20,000,000 per annum were paid by the consumers for every £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 which passed into the Exchequer. If such a Committee were granted, he would show besides that while the consumers of beer were taxed to the extent of 33 per cent, wine consumers were only taxed to the extent of 10 or 12 per cent, and tea, under the reduced duty, 25 per cent. Yet tea and wine were articles of foreign production, and wine was drunk only, or chiefly, by the wealthier classes. He hoped the time was come when those who stood forward as advocates of the interests of the labouring classes would remember, in addressing their constituents, to ask them whether they did not desire a remission of taxation in respect of the only article of luxury in which they could indulge, and which to them was almost one of the necessities of life. He hoped that the advocates of the repeal of the Malt Tax on the Government side of the House would hear upon the hustings that farmers' and labourers' true friends were not those who gave an isolated vote for the repeal of the Malt Tax, and then followed up that vote by a thick-and-thin support of a Government resolved that it should never be repealed. The tax on malt was, he repeated, not so much one on the farmer and producer as it was a tax affecting the working man. That the labouring classes should have to pay in taxation so great a proportion of the whole price of beer as one-third was inconsistent with the principles of free trade and destructive of every principle of taxation upon which this House had acted for the last twenty years. He was now ready to go into Committee upon this Bill. Small as was the boon conceded, he still welcomed it, and would regard it as an earnest of something more and better hereafter.


said, he did not wish to criticize this Bill, or the other financial measures, which afforded a very considerable remission of taxation; but he would mention one point in which they had fallen short of his expectations, which were very moderate. Last year they had a Malt for Cattle Bill; and although it might not have been as widely operative as could have been wished, the good intentions which framed it were not the less apparent. This year he was in hopes that the right hon. Gentleman would have brought in a Malt for Man Bill, or a Malt for Home Consumption Bill, and that they would have had to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a prospect of relief held out to the agriculturists in that direction. It would be said that the great brewers extended their operations everywhere, and that the days of cottage and home brewing had passed away. That was so, probably, in the immediate vicinity of towns; but there were very many rural districts where the concession of such a privilege would be highly appreciated. It was considered by the working men a hardship, that after rising early, late taking rest, and eating the bread of carefulness after laboriously tilling the soil "from morn to dewy eve," after superintending all the rural operations, from the introduction of the seed into the ground to its final germination in the year, an almost penal legislation intervened and prevented and intercepted them in the enjoyment of the fruits of their labour to which they were so well entitled. He believed that a measure such as this, far from increasing intoxication would, by withdrawing them from the public-houses, and by promoting more domestic habits, make a change in the opposite direction. The inhabitants of the vine-growing countries were generally considered the most sober; and it would be in accordance with the voice of nature. In every country and in every age it had been held to be the inalienable birthright of the tiller of the soil to gather its fruits free from the visits of the tax collector, and without even the intervention of the tradesman. The poets in the early ages told us—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer with his abundant scholarship could no doubt supply them with quotations without end—of the happiness of the hospitable old man, of whom it was said— Dapibus mensas onerabat inemptis. Indeed, the poets were never weary of painting the amiable picture— Quod si pudica mulier in partem juvet Domum atque dulces liberos; Sacrum vetustis extruat lignis focum, Lassi sub adventum viri— And now they came to what would answer to the home-brewed— Et horna dulci vina promens dolio, Dapes inemptas apparet —then he said his exultation would know no bounds. He was portraying the age of nature, and they could not improve on that. The greatest and most consummate artists always said, "Follow nature." Afterwards, as civilization advanced, wars commenced, and taxes were imposed as their natural result; but, unfortunately, when the wars ceased the taxes, which were their offspring, like the malt tax, remained, and some of them seemed to endure for ever. Of late years there had been a large remission of taxation pressing principally on the manufacturers, but in which the agriculturist, as a member of the community, had shared. He recognized no antagonism between those two great bodies. Their interests, in this country, at least, were inseparably united, their prosperities and adversities were ever the same. But he could not shut his eyes to the fact that the malt tax pressed rather exceptionally on the agriculturist. He had hoped that it would have been reserved to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have removed some part of this anomaly. He believed it was the right hon. Gentleman's ambition to be the Finance Minister, not only of a party, however great and powerful, but of the whole country, and his ardent admirers would willingly have seen him reviving old sympathies and old amities, and effecting a reconciliation with his former friends who once followed him with so much devotion. That should have been done before the dissolution, which cannot now be far off— Neque enim plus septima ducitur æstas. That opportunity had been for the moment omitted or forgone. The financial harvest had passed; the financial summer was ended; and they were not saved— Invidisse Deos, patriis ut redditus aris Conjugium optatum, et pulchram Calydona videret! But he would not despair of him yet. He hoped the day would come when he would do something (for he could do it) either in this or in some other way, which should send a thrill of satisfaction and exultation through the honest and manly hearts of the agricultural constituencies of the Empire.


said, the speech of his hon. and learned Friend (Sir FitzRoy Kelly) bore the mark, as all his speeches did, of a most careful abstinence from the imputation of hostile motives and the most liberal appreciation of the efforts which had been made on the part of the Government to mitigate the inconvenience which attended the pressure of the Malt Tax. In the case of the Malt Feeding Bill it was said that the limited operation of that measure was owing to the cumbrous restrictions of the Excise and the disparaging Report which had been made by an officer of the Government. Now, he apprehended, that neither the maltsters nor any other traders were made of such materials as to be debarred from pursuing a profitable trade by any disparaging report. With respect to the statement that the restrictions of the Excise had impeded the operation of the measure, he could assert that not one single person conversant with the working of the Bill had expressed any such opinion. On the contrary, he had in his possession letters from numerous gentlemen testifying from their practical experience that the restrictions of the Excise had not impeded the operation of the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that a challenge which he had thrown out had not been accepted. Now, he could not admit the truth of that proposition; but he would remind the hon. and learned Gentleman of a challenge which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had thrown out, but which had not been accepted. The hon. and learned Gentleman had undertaken to prove that the Malt Tax, which only produced £6.000,000, cost the consumers £20,000,000, and he likewise undertook to prove certain points with regard to the percentage of the taxation on malt. But the hon. and learned Gentleman forgot that the Government had afforded him facilities of proof he desired, and had offered him the re-appointment of a Committee which had sat on that subject. The non-renewal of that Committee was owing to the circumstance that the hon. and learned Gentleman did not do what the Committee itself had recommended—move for its re-appointment. The hon. and learned Gentleman therefore had not accepted the challenge which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had thrown out. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated that the sum expended annually by the people of this country on beer was £60,000,000. What a deplorably op- pressed trade that must be in which Englishmen were forbidden to invest to a greater extent than £60,000,000 annually, whilst, according to the best estimate that could be formed, the outlay for all other purposes—physical, material, political, moral, social, intellectual, spiritual — was £600,000,000; so that a full tithe only of the expenditure of the country found its way to that oppressed article! The hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that the present Government was formed on the principle of supporting the Malt Tax, and that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had asserted that "its repeal would be the death warrant of indirect taxation." Now what he did say was that the repeal of the Malt Tax without the imposition of some tax on beer would be the death warrant of all indirect taxation, and would be the most likely means of greatly disturbing the whole incidence of our financial system, and the relation of one of its parts to another, and he was bound to say that the present contentment of the country was connected with the maintenance of that system. But it was as far as possible from accuracy to say that on Her Majesty's Government rested the responsibility of maintaining the Malt Tax. Taxes were imposed to meet the expenditure of the country, and those were the true opponents of unnecessary taxation who endeavoured to promote the economical expenditure of the public money and that wise legislation which enlarged the public means. He would not dwell on the interesting speech of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Pugh), with all the refreshing recollections which it revived of the happy period when rural and domestic images were more familiar to our minds. The hon. Gentleman had laid down the principle not only that the beer of the people ought to be untexed but unbought. The hon. Gentleman must that it should be taken from the stores of the brewers without compensation, or he must mean that the land should by some agrarian law be so distributed as that every man should grow his own portion of barley. Now, he did not think the pleasing vision of the hon. Gentleman could be realized. If the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir FitzRoy Kelly) was so anxious for the reduction of the Malt Tax, he might have set about it in the present year. Why did he not set up his proposition against that of the Government for the reduction of the income tax and the duty on tea? The hon. and learned Gentleman represented a powerful party who were supposed to be unanimous in their desire to relieve the farmer from the crushing burdens to which he was subjected, and to put the repeal of the Malt Tax against the reduction of the income tax, and a considerable number of hon. Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House were willing to maintain the income tax at sixpence, and if they had joined the hon. and learned Gentleman he would have been sure of having a majority. Now, if the Malt Tax was not repealed it was because the advocates of the repeal did not place it against the reduction of the income tax. It was useless to expect that the people of England would believe in the earnestness of the advocates of the reduction of a particular tax when they would not make themselves responsible for pitting the repeal of that tax against the repeal of another tax. What was the use of giving the farmer barren words, fine periods, prolonged debates, repeated Committees, and calling public meetings of the Central Malt Tax Repeal Association, when their Friends in Parliament declined to bring forward the question as a definite and practical reform?


said, that he had not hinted at any agrarian law. All that he wanted was that the farmer should have unbought beer—unbought because home brewed.


said, he did not share in any reproach which might be thrown by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the advocates of the repeal of the Malt Tax. He did not wish to place the reduction of the Income Tax and the Tea Duty in competition with the repeal of the Malt Duty.


said, he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer was going a little too far when he said that indirect taxation would be utterly destroyed by the reduction of the Malt Duty, since all they asked for was that it might be reduced one-half.


said, he spoke of repeal and not reduction.


said, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no fear then as to the effect upon indirect taxation by merely reducing the Malt Duty, why did he not try the experiment by reducing the duty to one-half of the present amount. He wished also to observe that the present mode of levying the duty led to an excessive amount being paid. He was intimately acquainted with a house which had, during the last six months, paid £3,500 more than the Chancellor of the Exchequer was entitled to receive. As he was informed, all that was ever intended by the law was that the duty should be levied upon the dry barley steeped; but the maltsters now paid at least 2½ per cent more than they would be charged with upon that system. If the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir FitzRoy Kelly) would assist in the reform of two or three apparently small matters like that, he would be doing something for his constituents. He could not altogether agree with the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Caird), because he did not understand how meat was to be cheapened by increasing the price of barley from the strong lands. He hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would next year consider this question of the reduction of the Malt Duty, and would do something to give to the agricultural interest that relief to which it was so well entitled.


said, he gave the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer credit for having given a most important intimation. He had stated that the Malt Tax could not be repealed without the imposition of a tax on beer. It was most satisfactory to hear that the right hon. Gentleman had been considering the solution of the difficulty which existed, for a tax on beer would produce one-half of the tax upon malt. Although he had supported the Motion for the repeal of the Malt Tax, he gave the preference to the scheme proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and preferred the reduction of the Income Tax and the duties on Fire Insurance and tea. He drew from the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the augury that in a more favourable condition of the revenue the Malt Tax would be considered in the sense which he had pointed out.


said, that he regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not allowed this debate to pass without indulging in the taunt which he had directed against those who advocated the abolition of the Malt Tax. It would have been in better taste, and he was sure that it would have been truer, to have let it alone; because, what were the facts? Before the right hon. Gentleman's financial scheme was made known, but when it was understood that there would be a considerable surplus, a plain, straightforward Motion was made for the abolition of the whole or a part of the tax, and the right hon. Gen- tleman knew perfectly well that after the House had come to a definite decision upon that Resolution it would have been idle to oppose his proposals. Therefore the observations which the right hon, Gentleman had just made were entirely uncalled for, and were not calculated to conduce to the amicable transaction of the business of that House. The Bill before the House had attracted no attention whatever in his part of the country (Oxfordshire). He had heard nothing either good, bad, or indifferent about it, and therefore he should say nothing, but he must protest against the insinuation which the right hon. Gentleman had made that those who advocated the abolition of the Malt Duty did not act in good faith. [The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a gesture of dissent.] The right hon. Gentleman shock his head, but that was the meaning of his remark, that they addressed long speeches to anti-malt-tax associations, but made no attempt in that House to carry the repeal of the duty, because they preferred the abolition of other taxes. He, for one, took no part in the proceedings of anti-malt-tax associations, but he did not like to hear such insinuations, and must enter his protest against them.


said, that in the borough which he represented (Wallingford) there was so much diversity of opinion with reference to the repeal of the Malt Tax that it became a question entirely for the private judgment of the Member. Now, although he voted for the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for East Suffolk (Sir FitzRoy Kelly), on account of the moderation of its terms, he pointed out to his constituents that the maintenance of the revenue was of more importance than the repeal of the Malt Duty. He, like every one else, approved the reduction of the income tax and of the duty on fire insurances; but he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not right in reducing the tea duty. Nobody expected such a reduction, and the surplus which he had in hand ought to have been devoted to a reduction of the Malt Duty, which was being loudly asked for by a large number of persons in and out of Parliament. As the agricultural interest had expressed so decided an opinion on the subject, and the right hon. Gentleman had not granted them a boon for a long time, he hoped that if the right hon. Gentleman had a surplus next year, he would avail himself of the opportunity of carrying into effect the Resolution which had been proposed by his hon. and learned Friend.

Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 6 were agreed to.

Clause 7 (Mode of calculating Duty on Malt when charged according to Weight.)


said, he would now state what he thought to be the practical operation of this clause, which was the material and operative clause of the Bill. He was far from saying that the effect of this provision would be that which, in point of fact, was desirable—namely, to apportion the weight of the Malt Tax in every instance to the real malting value of the barley. There were malting qualities in different kinds of barley which this Bill would not touch, such as colour, skin, and the friable quality of the farine, which ingredients helped to determine the price. But one great quality ran through all barleys, which, other things being equal, was of great importance in determining their value, and that was weight. As far as weight was concerned, he hoped the Bill would have the effect of placing light barley on as fair and equitable footing, as far as the tax was concerned, as that in which heavy barleys stood. Most of the Amendments he proposed were verbal, but he had to propose an important one, and that was to fill up the blank in the clause with "531b.," which was to be taken as the standard of weight. If they were to fix the pivot weight too high they would give no relief, and would diminish to a considerable extent the revenue from malt. He had endeavoured to ascertain from the best authorities what were those barleys which ought really to be considered light with reference to malting, and what should be the point of division between these and the heavy barleys. What they aimed at curing by the present Bill was the defect that the amount of the Malt Duty was made to depend on measure. The problem of the maltster was to get out of a given bulk as much malting power as he could. In order to do that he looked to the quality of the bailey, and the better the barley the greater would be the amount of extract it would yield from a given bulk. The bulk of malting barley did not differ in any great degree, but the amount and value of the malt produced from them differed greatly though it was subjected to nearly the same tax. He believed that to a limited extent the better barley gave a greater bulk of malt than the lighter barley did. The difference in the value of this malting product of barley was what they sought to deal with in this Bill. If they took the parcels of barley equal in other respects, but differing in weight, when these parcels were malted the difference in bulk would be small, but the difference in value would be great. The lighter barley would give a malt of much less value than the heavy barley, and therefore he wished to put the holder of the lighter barley on a footing on which he would be less subjected to the disadvantages of the operation of the present law, and more on an equality with the holder of the best malting barley. The mode of effecting that object was this:— They took the standard of barley at 531b., and he would show how it would operate in relation to light barley used for malt weighing, say 501b., though he believed that some qualities of even lower weight were sometimes used for malting purposes. He would suppose a quarter of that malt put into the cistern to steep. The process would then go on precisely as at present, the only alteration being that the top of the cistern would have to be covered in such a way that though the process could be watched the barley could not be changed for a heavier barley. It was gauged then as now before it was taken out of the cistern to be put on the couch, and also after it was put into the couch. That was the period when it was supposed to have attained its greatest swell or bulk. He would suppose that it had swollen in that case from eight bushels to ten bushels. A process was then applied to rectify the in crease—which was said to be insufficient. His hon. Friend (Mr. Bass) had referred to the case of a house which had been mulcted in the sum of £3,500 by an in accuracy to the extent of 2½ per cent. The operations of that house could not in that case be inconsiderable. According to established rules, when the bulk reached 10 bushels an allowance was made of 18½ per cent, and that was reckoned decimally—namely, a reduction from 10 to 8.15, but as the practice was to strike off the second decimal figure the result was that 8.1, or 8 l–10th, was charged. That was the rule as it now stood. By the operation of the present Bill, what was done was that the bulk, or 8 l–10th, was multiplied by the weight of barley and divided by the stance dard weight, and the quotient, 7.6, would be the amount of barley to be charged for duty. This would be a relief of from 6 to 7 per cent, varying in proportion to the weight of the barley. He need not trouble the Committee with regard to the Bill, because it was admitted that as far as the regulations were concerned they were what they ought to be if the main feature of the Bill became law.


said, he had been requested to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of raising the average to fifty-four and not to fifty-three, if he meant to benefit the growers of barley on strong lands.


said, that would be to go too low, and the result would be to introduce the very poor foreign baileys. The figure of 531b. was the full weight of the average of malting barley.


said, that various inquiries had been carefully made, and the weights not only went below fifty-three but also fifty-two and even fifty-one. The result of the alteration would be that foreign barleys would receive the main portion of the benefit of the Bill.

The figures "53" were then inserted.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 8 to 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 omitted.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Monday next.