HC Deb 18 February 1867 vol 185 cc472-4

Order for Committee read.


said, he could not allow the House to go into Committee without again entering his protest against the system of classified sugar duties, the object of which was to give protection to one class of sugar growers at the expense of others. He did not blame the present Government for bringing forward this measure; if it had originated with them there would probably have been a storm of objection to it, as a Tory monopoly scheme. He regretted to say that this measure originated with the leader of free trade in this House, the right hon. Member for Lancashire. The Vice President of the Board of Trade told the House the other night that the duties were, by this Bill, levied on the precise quantity of saccharine matter contained in each class of sugars. Now, it was nothing of the kind. The duties were really levied upon the samples of sugar laid before the Custom House officers, who decided from their appearance what rate of duty each should pay; and as no man could tell from the appearance of sugar what quantity of saccharine matter it contained, it opened the door to injustice and fraud. Besides, this absurd system was attended with enormous expense. According to the Report of the Board of Inland Revenue, in London alone no less than 632,738 samples of sugar, representing 3,123,000 packages, were assessed for duty by the Customs officers. Now, as no two packages of sugar were of precisely the same colour, grain, and quality, some must be charged too much and others too little, what a door is open to fraud! The fact is, that all this labour and expense incurred by the classification of duties is solely to protect West India sugar planters, who persist in old methods of making sugar. He believed that this was the only protection Act on the statute book, and he hoped it would not be long before they were able to say that protection did not exist in this country. Undoubtedly this Bill reduced the amount of protection, and so far it was an approxi- mation to the only sound system of an uniform duty. But the protection was of the worst character; it was a tax upon improvement; it taxed those able to make sugar of a better quality, from the same raw material, by a superior process. Suppose Manchester and Blackburn were each making a particular kind of yarn from the same quality of cotton, and that the Manchester people, in consequence of superior processes and superior machinery, were able to sell their yarn at 1d. per pound less than the Blackburn people, what should we say to the prayer of the Blackburn people that a duty of 1d. per pound ought to be laid upon the Manchester yarn to enable them to compete with their rivals? But this was just what the West India planters demanded, and which this Bill granted. He (Mr. J. B. Smith) was of opinion, with the right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell), before that Gentleman ate his own words, that— To strike with a superior duty one pound of sugar, which by a better mode of manufacture contains more saccharine matter than another pound, obtained from the same raw material, is to inflict direct discouragement upon improvement. The whole case could not be better expressed than in this language, and he should only, therefore, repeat his protest against the present system.

(In the Committee.)

Resolution 1. That there shall be charged and paid, on and after the 1st day of March, 1867, the following Duties of Excise on Sugar made in the United Kingdom (that is to say):—

£ s. d.
Candy, brown or white, refined Sugar, or Sugar rendered by any process equal in quality thereto, and manufactures of refined Sugar the cwt. 0 12 0
Sugar not equal to refined, according to the Standard Samples approved by the Lords of the Treasury for assessing the Duties of Customs on Sugar imported into the United Kingdom, viz.:—
First Class the cwt. 0 11 3
Second Class the cwt. 0 10 6
Third Class. the cwt. 0 9 7
Fourth Class. the cwt. 0 8 0
Molasses. the cwt. 0 3 6


said, that before moving the second Resolution, he wished to explain that its object was to place the Excise duty on sugar used in brewing on the same footing as the Customs duty. The sugar used in brewing paid a duty of 3s. 4d.; this being sugar of the fourth class would now pay a Customs duty of 8s. It used to be 8s. 2d. before the alteration, and it was necessary to put on the brewing duty, the 2d. that was thus taken off, so that the duty on 210 lbs. of sugar should be equal to the duty on a quarter of malt.

Resolution 2. That there shall be charged and paid for and upon every hundred-weight, and so in proportion for any greater or less quantity than a hundred-weight, of all Sugar which, on and after the 1st day of March, 1867, shall be used by any Brewer of Beer for sale in the brewing or making of Beer, the Excise Duty of Three Shillings and Six Pence.

Resolutions to be reported on Wednesday.