§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he rose to bring forward the Motion of which he had given Notice. He must confess to a feeling of disappointment, which was shared in by other Gentlemen, that a discussion on this somewhat dry subject had not been obviated by some concession on the part of the Government. He regretted that the Government had not proposed a more liberal course of procedure than that which had been indicated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he might add, that in making this Motion he had no other desire than that justice should be done to a considerable body of persons who were largely interested in the commerce of the country. The question between his right hon. Friend and those on whose behalf he was now speaking could not be put more succinctly than it had been in one of the public journals. The article to which he alluded put it that the price of sugar having been artificially enhanced by the imposition of certain duties in the interest of the public, it was now proposed to reduce those duties in the same interest; but the burden of the loss was to fall not on the public for whose benefit the reduction was to be made, but on the merchants who held sugar at a particular date. It would be his duty to endeavour to show that the course which he asked the House to take was in strict accordance with precedent, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was now claiming an exemption on behalf of the State which was opposed to the policy he had himself enunciated on many former occasions. In 1845 there was a considerable reduction in the duty on glass, and an allowance was made to the manufacturers and dealers in respect of their stocks. In 1860 the duty on wine was reduced from 5s. 6d.to 2s. 9d., and dealers were allowed a drawback of 2s. 9d.a gallon 1771 on their stocks. In 1861, when the paper duty was abolished stationers were allowed duty they had paid, and a similar course was followed in 1862, when the duty on hops was reduced 17s. per cwt. In all cases either a drawback had been allowed to those who held stocks of those articles, or time had been afforded them in which to dispose of the stocks they had in hand. In the former cases, either the whole or a large proportion of the amount of Excise or of Customs' duty, that had been paid to the Government, was returned to the holders in the same manner as though they had exported the goods subject to those imposts. It might be asked why he had omitted the case of the sugar duties. The case of that duty stood thus—it was proposed in 1845 to make a considerable reduction in the duty upon sugar. No allowance or drawback being provided for, Mr. Hawes, the then Member for Lambeth, made a Motion on the subject, which he (Mr. Crawford) had adopted as a precedent in bringing forward the present Motion, in which he asked that a drawback should be allowed upon all sugar in stock at a particular date. On the occasion to which he referred the feeling expressed by the House was so strong that, in the course of the debate, Sir Robert Peel changed his mind and consented that the drawback asked for should be allowed. In 1864, when the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government introduced his Motion for the further reduction of those duties, three weeks' time was given to the holders of stocks of refined sugars, while a shorter allowance of time was given to the holders of unrefined sugar, to enable them to get quit of their stocks. How did the matter stand in the present instance? In the early part of the present Session it was generally felt that there would be a large reduction in taxation, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to a direct Question put to him upon the subject by the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Grieve), had stated—Should it be my good fortune to take the duty off sugar or off anything else, I shall adopt the best means in my power to insure that the interest of those concerned shall not suffer in any manner that is not absolutely unavoidable."—And in reply to other Questions on other 1772 occasions the right hon. Gentleman had further stated that "he did not see why any injustice to individuals in consequence of any possible alteration in those duties need be apprehended." The conclusion that had been drawn from those replies, by those interested, had been that either a drawback or time would be allowed to those who held stocks of sugar, in accordance with the precedents to which he had alluded. Had it not been for that feeling, the stocks of sugar in this country would have been greatly reduced, and a considerable amount of local distress would have been occasioned in consequence of the stoppage of the sugar refineries. The question was, whether those who had relied upon the statements of the right hon. Gentleman were to be sacrificed for the general good of the community. Various representations had been addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer from various parts of the country—from London, Bristol, Liverpool, and other places where refining was carried on—pointing ont the extreme injustice of the Government proposal; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had met those representations to a certain extent, by allowing the reduction on refined and a certain other class of sugar, less a sum equivalent to the cost of shipping the sugar to a foreign country and back again. Now, he (Mr. Crawford) thought it was undesirable to encourage that subterfuge. The refiners and holders of stock would have been quite satisfied if they had been allowed a few days to get rid of their stock by ordinary consumption, which went on at the rate of 1,500 tons per diem. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, had said that even three days, which might have been sufficient for the purpose, were too much, because they would enable refiners in possession of improved machinery to manufacture sugar, on which the reduced duty had been paid, within a day, and, exporting it the next evening, to claim the old duty as a drawback. The information on which this argument was founded, however, was not complete. A refiner might have cleared 100 tons of sugar from the Customs on the morning of Wednesday, the 13th, but out of that he could not have refined more than 40 tons by the Thursday evening. He would have got off the first crystallizations—the cream of the milk, so to say; but if 1773 he had so manufactured and exported those 40 tons for the sake of the drawback he would have been a loser in the end, for the remaining 60 tons would have had to be prepared afterwards, at such an increased cost as would render the proceeding inexpedient. The proceeding was chemically possible, but would not be profitable, very much resembling the old story of the man of whom it was said he wore a coat in the evening made of wool which was on the sheep's back upon the morning of the same day. The refiners were willing to place their establishments under Customhouse surveillance for five or 10 days, but this reasonable proposal was declined by the Treasury, as, indeed, was every other suggestion. In making his Motion he had adopted the course taken by Mr. Hawes, the Member for Lambeth, and he hoped the precedent would be followed in all its forms; he hoped, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary to the Treasury were against Mr. Hawes's Motion, and finally gave way because the sense of the House was with it, that in this case the Chancellor of the Exchequer would also be prevailed on eventually to give way. He had divided his Motion into three parts. In the first place, he proposed—That provision should be made in the Bill for the Drawback of the amount of the Duty reduced:—On such Duty-paid sugar as remained in any bonded warehouse on the close of Tuesday, the 12th of April, 1870.As it might be doubted whether there was any sugar so circumstanced on that day, he would mention the fact that Mr. Muhm, a refiner in the East-end, had in a bonded warehouse on the evening of Tuesday, the 12th of April, 631 hogsheads of molasses, on which he had paid the old duty, 3s. 6d. per cwt, and upon which he was refused the difference between the old and the new duty, although the Customs had the molasses under lock and key. Mr. Muhm's case was strengthened by the fact that on a former occasion, when he had paid the duty by anticipation the day before an alteration was made in the duties, the Customs' authorities required him to pay an addition of 5 per cent consequent upon that alteration, on the plea that the sugar had not left their hands. He did not, however, believe there were many cases in which persons paid duty without at once taking the sugar out of 1774 bond. The second part of his Motion was that the drawback should be allowed—On the Stocks of Manufactured Sugar, other than Refined Sugar, or Sugar equal in quality thereto (entitled to the Drawback of 12s. the cwt.), being in quantity not less than 100 cwt., and in packages unbroken, in the hands of Refiners and Dealers, on the close of Tuesday, the 12th April, 1870, in places where there are Customs' Authorities.He thought the dealers fully as much entitled to the drawback as the refiners; and in this part his Resolution followed a precedent laid down by the First Minister of the Crown, who, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, restricted the allowance of drawback in the case of hops to quantities of not less than half-a-ton. They must draw a hard and fast line somewhere, and he (Mr. Crawford) had fixed on 100 cwt., because he understood that quantity would be generally acceptable to the trade, as, also, he believed his other proposals would be. Owners of refined sugar on the morning of Wednesday, the 13th of April, packed up their stores, sent them abroad, landed them on the quay of Dunkirk or Rotterdam, and brought them back to London in the same vessel. In the first instance, they were allowed the full drawback, and the sugar, on being re-imported, only paid the reduced duty. The expense of this operation varied in different cases, being the highest in the case of loaf sugar, which was a very delicate article, and required a great deal of care in handling. The cost of shipping and re-importing loaf sugar might be 50s. a ton, or about 2s. 5d. per cwt.; but other kinds of sugar could be exported at prices varying from 22s. 6d.to 29s. per ton, so that the actual expense of the operation would be only 1s. or 1s. 6d. per cwt. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had, however, assessed the cost at no less than 3s., acting, no doubt, on the information he had received from his advisers. He (Mr. Crawford) was in possession of numerous letters showing what was the actual expense of sending out sugar under the circumstances he had referred to. For instance, the firm of Crossfield, Barrow, and Co., of Liverpool, said, that in April, 1870, they exported to Rotterdam 50 casks of fine crystal sugar, and re-imported them in the same steamer on her return voyage, the whole expenses per ton being 26s. 1d.,or rather more than 1s 3½d. per cwt. He also had a letter 1775 from Messrs. Martineau & Co., sugar refiners, stating that the operation might be conducted for 25s. a ton. These figures showed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, even according to his own principle, asking too much money, and seeking to make a profit for the Government out of the expenditure on the operation he had alluded to. The right hon. Gentleman claimed 3s., whereas it was clear that the actual cost was, at the most, only half that amount. For his own part, he objected altogether to any deduction being made, when the simple justice of the case demanded that the full drawback should be allowed. What was originally required was time to enable the holders of stocks of sugar to get out of them by means of the ordinary process of consumption in the country. If a moderate reduction had been made in the selling price the stocks of sugar would, in a short time, have become so reduced that the question of loss from a change in the duty would have been an immaterial affair in the estimation of those who had to sustain it. The last part of his Resolution proposed that an allowance and drawback should be made—On the Stocks of Sugar under process of manufacture on the premises of Refiners on the close of Tuesday, the 12th April, 1870, which can be identified to the satisfaction of the officers of Her Majesty's Customs.Whatever claim the refiners might have to the allowance of drawback in respect of the made-up sugar in their warehouses, whether it belonged to themselves or their customers, might be urged with equal force on behalf of all persons who had in their possession sugar on which they had paid the high rate of duty. No difficulty, he was informed, would be experienced in proving to the satisfaction of the Customs' authorities what was the amount of sugar in the hands of refiners and dealers on the evening of the 12th of April, because the books of all the firms were kept with great nicety and accuracy. He might remark, in passing, that these firms had a right to claim from those who administered the law some regard for private interests in this particular. The custodians of the Revenue looked exclusively after its interests, and Gentlemen engaged in commerce found that their just claims received no consideration whatever. ["Hear, hear!"] He was 1776 glad to hear that sentiment cheered, because he believed it to be a true one. Merchants were regarded by the Customs and Excise authorities as persons who intended to defraud the Revenue if they could. He must now remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the circumstances under which the sugar trade was carried on in this country were not uniform in all places. At London the refiners held, not only their own stocks, but also, partially, the stocks of the dealers who were under contract to take sugar from them. At Bristol, however, the case was exactly the reverse, as there the sugar was taken away by the wholesale dealers as soon as the refiners could turn it out. The same system was also, he believed, in partial operation in the Clyde. At Liverpool, the opposite method was adopted, and, therefore, it was hardly just to apply a general law to the whole of the sugar interests in this country. If we wished to act fairly in this matter, we ought to recognize the principle which had been applied in the case of hops and glass, and to regard the interests of the traders. With the view of raising this question clearly and distinctly he had placed on the Paper a Resolution which he would now move.
§ MR. RATHBONE
, in seconding the Motion, said, he should be disposed to take up a still higher ground than his hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford), for he confessed his inability to perceive that any deviation from the principle laid down of previous sugar precedents, or with regard to hops and glass was other than a practical, though it might be, an unintentional breach of faith. It had been pretty evident, as the hon. Gentleman had remarked, that the sugar duties would be dealt with this Session, and, therefore, the refiners had wished to learn from the Government on what terms they would be treated. A deputation waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, according to the report in The Timesof the 4th of February, assured them that he would adopt the best means in his power in order that the interests of those concerned should not suffer. The refiners very naturally interpreted that promise by the light of the precedents adopted on other similar occasions. When they examined those precedents, they found that, in every case but one, ample time was allowed for stocks to be got rid of, 1777 while in the single exceptional case Government allowed a drawback. He cast no blame on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who must be, to a great extent, dependent on officers of the Customs as to what was practical; but he (Mr. Rathbone) was compelled to express his belief that the officers of the Customs had given the right hon. Gentleman very bad information, and had shown themselves to be very deficient in resource and judgment. The right hon. Gentleman had himself stated that time could not be granted, because the process of refining had changed of late years, and that sugar could be refined much more rapidly than before. There was, however, no real foundation for this argument. Sugar refiners had informed him that the same machinery was at work now as heretofore; and if the right hon. Gentleman thought it was possible that the machinery gave facilities for refining sugar, so as to evade the Revenue, he should have adopted the suggestion that was made to him, and put the sugar under bond. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might say that there was no precedent for doing that; but surely if a deviation from precedent were justifiable in the one case, it was in the other. He contended that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was bound to keep his promise, in spirit at least, and allow a drawback. He thought that there was a very strong case for allowing the drawback on sugar in the dealers' hands as proposed by the Resolution before the House. He (Mr. Rathbone) could confirm the statement of the hon. Member for London, with regard to the expense of exporting and re-importing the sugar proposed to be dealt with—1s. 6d. per cwt. was the extreme deduction that ought to be made. It was of the utmost importance that a feeling of want of confidence should not be created by the proceedings of the Government, which would increase the evils arising from a change of duty by stopping the manufacture of articles for some time before the Budget was declared, and thereby throwing capital out of use and people out of employment.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "provision should be made in the Bill for the Drawback of the amount of the Duty reduced:—
On such Duty-paid Sugar as remained in any bonded warehouse on the close of Tuesday, the 12th April, 1870;
On the Stocks of Manufactured Sugar, other than Refined Sugar, or Sugar equal in quality thereto (entitled to the Drawback of 12s. the cwt.), being in quantity not less than 100 cwt., and in packages unbroken, in the hands of Refiners and Dealers, on the close of Tuesday, the 12th April, 1870, in places where there are Customs Authorities;
On the Stocks of Sugar under process of manufacture on the premises of Refiners on the close of Tuesday, the 12th April, 1870, which can be identified to the satisfaction of the officers of Her Majesty's Customs,
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. GRAHAM
said, the question was one in which the citizens of Glasgow were deeply interested, and that he had had a great many representations made to him as to the feeling of injustice which had been occasioned by the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That the right hon. Gentleman had no wish to do an injustice he had not the slightest doubt; but then he was dependent for his information on the officers of Customs, between whom and the merchants there seemed to be a sort of antagonism, and who, animated by a certain esprit de corps, suggested to him doubts and difficulties which did not, in point of fact, exist. So far as Glasgow, and, he believed, Greenock also, was concerned, the sugars, with respect to which the right hon. Gentleman had already made a concession, were laid side by side in the stores with the other sugars to which he now denied it, and there would, therefore, be no difficulty in dealing with the matter. It would be perfectly easy to ascertain the position of the stocks in the hands of the dealers who now claimed to be exempted. The Government had the means of obtaining access to their books, and procuring quite as accurate evidence in regard to the subject as in the case of the Income Tax Returns, with respect to which they took the word of those very dealers. It might be said that there was no precedent for the course which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was now asked to take; but neither was there any precedent for so heavy a reduction at one time on the article of the kind. There had been a reduction of 50 per cent in the duty, and the result would 1779 be losses to the extent of many thousands of pounds if the right hon. Gentleman refused to make an allowance. He could not help feeling that when the House and the country were meeting the Government in such a frank and cordial spirit with reference to all their financial measures, it was very hard that the commercial classes should be dealt with by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as if he were seeking to drive a hard bargain with them, as if he were in opposition to their interests.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he had very little to add to what had fallen from the hon. Members for London (Mr. Crawford) and Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), who had just addressed the House; but, inasmuch as the city of Glasgow was largely interested in the subject, he must, as its representative, express a hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not refuse to listen to the representations that had been made to him in favour of the dealers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that he understood the case of the dealers perfectly, but that the weakest part of it was that there was no precedent—meaning by that, he (Mr. Anderson) presumed, that there was no precedent in the sugar trade at that time. The right hon. Gentleman had already agreed to concede a drawback to the refiners; but he had declined to extend the concession to the dealers. He (Mr. Anderson) would like to explain to the House, in one word, how it was that there was no precedent in the sugar trade for such a proceeding. It was because the trade had of late years entirely changed. In the year 1845 there was a large consumption of the raw material in this country, whereas there was at present none. At that time they kept the sugar in the bonded stores, and when they got an order from the grocers they ordered it out of those stores; but the whole trade had entirely changed. The sugar now all went through some process or other of refining, and the dealers bought it from the refiners instead of getting it out of the stores. The refiners took exactly the same course as they used to do. They got it out of the bonded stores. The dealers now bought it from day to day of the refiners, but they did not take it away; they left it on the premises of the refiner till they wanted it, and they paid a store rent for it. They simply 1780 ordered a certain quantity of it as they wanted it. There would, therefore, be no difficulty in ascertaining quite correctly what the quantity was as the two laid side by side. In point of fact, the Government inspectors had been sent to the Clyde to take the stocks of the refiners, and had taken not only the stocks of the refiners but the dealers also, so that the Government were already in possession of the facts necessary to enable them to estimate the amount of the reduction. He would also confirm what had been already said about the charges, if the reduction was to be less than 3s. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had estimated the costs a great deal too highly, and that 1s. 6d. per cwt. would be a far more correct allowance in that respect.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, the sugar refiners were fortunate in having the hon. Member for London (Mr. Crawford) as an advocate; but he maintained that their case was by no means so hard as had been represented. Three or four weeks before the Budget was brought forward, a Question had been put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to which he gave an answer which was regarded as very unsatisfactory by manufacturers; and in consequence of which a great many sugar refiners stopped refining altogether, because they thought it indicated that some change was about to be made. The result was that so much was not done in sugar generally, and that there was an increase in the price of fine sugars. Some bold men, no doubt, went in during this time of suspense with the view of making a profit, and if wrong, trusted to obtain drawback. That to which he wished, however, especially to invite the attention of the House was the fact that, after the Budget had been brought, forward the reduction in the price of duty-paid sugar bore no proportion to the reduction in the duty. The average price, indeed, was about the same for six weeks before and for six weeks after the reduction, and he believed that those engaged in refining had never had a better time of it than during the latter six weeks. The public had derived no benefit from the reduction of duty, the whole of which, on the class of goods under consideration, had gone into the pockets of manufacturers, and the community generally were, therefore, he thought, indebted to the Chan- 1781 cellor of the Exchequer for standing up in defence of the interests of the public.
§ MR. MORLEY
said, he thought the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Alderman Lusk) had been misinformed, and that there would be no difficulty in satisfying the House that the fall in the price of sugar was equal to the reduction in the duty. That retail customers did not yet receive the full amount of the reduction might be true; but in the case of the wholesale dealers the reduction in the price was fully equal to the reduction in the duty. It was to be regretted that, after the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Financial Statement had been received with favour, there should be any necessity for appealing to the House against the right hon. Gentleman's decision. The House would naturally support any Chancellor of the Exchequer who hesitated to part with the public money; but, on grounds both of justice and policy, the allowance demanded ought to be made. In 1864 seven days were granted, and representations had been made to him (Mr. Morley) that crystallized sugar could be made as quickly then as now. He, therefore, contended that the three or four days only, for which the hon. Member for the City of London pleaded on the Budget night, ought to have been granted, by the right hon. Gentleman. He wished to press on the attention of the House the policy of there being an understanding that in all cases where there should be a remission of Customs duties, either time or a drawback should be allowed, in order to prevent that paralyzing of trade that took place from the present uncertainty. He expected that the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Grieve) would state that if the refiners had known that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was about to give to the refiners the 21 days which had been allowed there would have been £200,000 more in the right hon. Gentleman's hands on the evening of the Budget; for, in Greenock, the trade was completely paralyzed for a month before the Budget, and many workmen were thrown out of employment because the refiners distrusted the assurance given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the interests of the trade would be considered. Where the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been trusted the 1782 holders of sugar would have to bear a heavy loss unless the proposed concession were made. He hoped the House would interpose in support of the proposal of the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford).
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, the state of the tea trade, as well as the case of the sugar holders, showed how unsatisfactory was the present system. There was an expectation that the duty on tea would be reduced, and the consequence was that for three months trade was utterly paralyzed, although stocks were large, prices were low, and nothing was wanting to the conduct of a profitable trade but certainty as to the duty. The average trade in tea was 7,000,000 1bs. per month; in January of this year that quantity was reached, but in February it fell to 4,000,000 lbs.; in March to less than 3,000,000 lbs.; and the fact that the deliveries of tea on the 12th day of April—the day after the production of the Budget—were equal to the quantity delivered during the whole of the preceding part of the month was, in his opinion, the best illustration of the unsatisfactory condition of the trade. It was needless for him to go into the details of the money part of the question, the broad question being whether the country should benefit at the expense of certain individuals. If the present management of the Customs' duties were persisted in, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. For the essence of trade was profit, which was dependent on regularity, and if such arrangements were permitted it was impossible that trade could flourish. He was much gratified to hear the hearty response to the remarks of the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford) about commercial morality, and still more to find that the idea that all business men were always trying to get the better of the Government did not prevail in all Departments; but that one right hon. Gentleman who had an intimate knowledge of commercial affairs believed there were as honourable men engaged in business as there were in the Government. If such men were dealt with fairly they would deal fairly in return; but what could the Government expect from persons who were led to suspect that they were not fairly treated? Such men would and must protect themselves, and 1783 the sugar trade had a right to shield themselves from injury.
§ MR. GRIEVE
said, that after the clear and distinct statement of the hon. Member for the City of London he felt it would be a waste of the time of the House if he attempted to go over the details of this matter. He endorsed in every particular what the hon. Member had stated, and confirmed what had been said by the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley). He could with confidence appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a graceful concession to wholesale dealers, for the stand the right hon. Gentleman had taken after repeated remonstrances was unworthy of his high financial position. After all, the amount involved was so small, and the justice of the case so clamant, that he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give way.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, he should have been content to leave the case of the Liverpool trade in the hands of his hon. Colleague (Mr. Rathbone); but he was unwilling that the discussion of this question should be wholly on one side of the House, as he knew that several hon. Members who sat near him thoroughly agreed with what had been said by the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford). There never was a time when the grant of a drawback might be more fairly pressed than the present, for this was the first time to his knowledge when the whole of the remission of a duty had gone into the pockets of consumers. ["No, no!"] On previous occasions the holders of sugar had recouped themselves by advancing the price; but no such opportunity was given them this year, and the amount of the duty was the measure of their loss. This was not a question that affected merely the sugar trade, but it applied to all kinds of business in the future; because, if the House supported the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the entire trade of the country must be stopped whenever it was expected that a reduction of duty would form part of the Financial Statement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had allowed time to the holders of loaf sugar, and his reason for not granting the same time to other holders was not creditable either to the honesty of traders or to the intelligence of the Customs' officials. Could not the Customs' officials find a ready means of ascertaining on what sugar the 1784 higher duty had been paid? The trade had solved this difficulty. They asked for no drawback, except upon stocks which they could prove were in their possession prior to the 12th of April. He joined, therefore, in the appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider this question, and, even at the last moment, do to the trade an act of justice by which the public would be no sufferers.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I find no fault with the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford); but it certainly has a peculiar inconvenience, because it is not in the form of an Instruction to the Committee—although it purports to instruct the Committee in what they are to do, but it is an Amendment to the proposal that we should go into Committee, and I am told, on high authority, that the effect of adopting it would be to prevent our going into Committee altogether. Now, I am sure it is not the wish of my hon. Friend to impede the progress of Public Business. I think, indeed, he gave the House to understand that he moved the Resolution with an impression that possibly he might not have to press it; and if it is possible to do something to meet his views, my hon. Friend will probably be glad to meet me half-way. I shall now proceed to state how the matter stands, what concessions I have made, and what concessions I am prepared to make; and I trust that after explaining, as I shall do, the reasons why we stop short of all he asks, hon. Gentlemen will be of opinion that we have gone as far as our duty to the public enables us to go. When there is a large reduction of taxation there is always a great difficulty as to the interests of private persons. No doubt it is to be wished that great changes of this kind could be made without injury to anyone. But that is impossible. More or less hardship must be endured by private individuals, and the only question is as to the fairest principle to adopt on these occasions. One principle has been suggested this evening, to which I hope the House will not assent—namely, that measures ought to be taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to prevent any trade from being dislocated, or from suffering at all. This means simply, that three or four months before the Chancellor of the Exchequer brings forward his Budget, 1785 he ought to acquaint the gentlemen in the trade with his proposals affecting them, in order that they may regulate the importation of these articles or cease to warehouse them. ["No, no!"] If this was not the meaning of the suggestion I am at a loss to know what construction to put upon it or upon some of the speeches we have heard tonight. In fact, it would be doing very much what I was told some time ago by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring), I ought to have done in dealing with Consols—that is, when I had £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 of Consols to sell, I should have acquainted everybody with the fact, in order that Consols might fall, and I might get as little as possible for my stock. That is not my notion of the principle on which we should act. An hon. Gentleman (Mr. Rathbone) who spoke against me tonight—and I admit he was not the only one—laid down what I think is the right principle. Speaking of the sort of torture which is inflicted upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when hon. Gentlemen wish to extract some information from him and he wishes that nothing should be extracted from him, the hon. Member said that the answers of a person in that unfortunate position ought to be interpreted with reference to precedent. That, really, is the guide which we ought to follow. When a man in my position talks about doing no avoidable mischief, his words are not to be taken too literally. What he means is, that he will do as little mischief as is consistent with his duty to the public at large; as little as he can do without deviating from the rules he finds already laid down; and that he will inflict no wanton damage on anybody. That was my intention and wish, and I cannot think I am fairly chargeable with having led persons to believe that no such change as that actually made would be made. Whatever my answers were, the general effect of them was to show an intention to reduce the duty on sugar to an enormous extent, and my hon. Friend (Mr. Crawford) virtually admits this, when he says that the stocks of sugar before the 11th of April were extremely low. That being the state of the case, I announced a reduction of one-half the duty on sugar. The principles on which I was bound to act seemed clear. I was bound by precedent, and precedent was 1786 undoubtedly in favour of making a drawback as regards refined sugar. There was no difficulty about that. On the other hand, I must state, most positively, that the uniform precedent is entirely against making any concession whatever to the dealers. That was the practice, right or wrong; and my hon. Friend has entirely failed to produce any precedent for the allowance of drawback to wholesale dealers. He mentioned the case of glass; but that was an Excise duty, and entirely beside the present question. In the case of Excise duties, a drawback has always been allowed; but in that of Customs, duties it has always been refused. Then he mentioned another case which certainly seemed in point, and that was the case of wine. He said that in 1860 a drawback was allowed on the stocks of wine. But that is just the exception which proves the rule. What was the reason for allowing the drawback at that time? Because the duties on wine had been a matter of negotiation and of uncertainty for many years, and the Government had been under a compact with the trade for ten years past that, whatever the reduction of duties, the trade should have a drawback on the heavy stocks. This was not a precedent; it was a matter of special contract, and has nothing to do with the present question. Then another case occurred in 1845, when a drawback was allowed upon stocks of sugar which had paid duty and had afterwards been retained in bonded warehouses, for the benefit of the holders of those stocks. Certainly that is a precedent; but it is not much to be admired, because it is essentially a one-sided arrangement. The only point then relied on, as Sir Robert Peel showed, was that the sugar had never been out of the hands of the Government. But if the dealers were entitled to a drawback under these circumstances when the Government had reduced the duty, could the Government have demanded an increased duty supposing they had augmented it? That is the test to apply, and I say that the decision then come to was a one-sided one. It is a precedent; I grant that; but it was a precedent forced upon an unwilling Government, and certainly should not be extended or enlarged. I repeat that there is no precedent for giving the drawback, on a change of duty, to the dealers, wholesale or retail, in sugar or 1787 any other foreign commodity. But then, if my hon. Friend does not succeed on the ground of precedent, he alleges that time has generally been given to the dealers. Well, time has been given; but it has been given accidentally, and in two places. In the first place, it does not always follow that the proposal is made to the House one day and the Resolution is reported the day afterwards, and time has often been given in this way accidentally. This year the Resolutions were brought up the day after. In previous years, however, by accident—for the convenience of the House and not at all with reference to the convenience of dealers, it has happened that the dealers have obtained time for the disposal of their stocks. Then the case of manufactured sugar has generally been considered, and the dealer has again accidentally benefited from the desire to do justice to the manufacturers. But I am aware of no instance in which time has been given to wholesale or retail dealers. Both the drawback and the time have been given alio intuito—with a view to other objects and owing to other circumstances. Not only is the case strong in precedent; it is strong in justice, and in good sense. The manufacturer has an article to produce; he must employ many hands to carry on his business; and therefore he must have a stock of sugar on hand, unless he stops his operations altogether, thereby doing a serious injury to those in his employ. But what necessity is there for a dealer to have a large stock? He knows the time when the Budget will be brought forward; he knows the demands that will be made upon him; he can calculate within a very small quantity what he will require; and why, therefore, should he receive any special consideration in respect of his goods? The practice hitherto has been not to give him such consideration, and if we yield to the present Motion we establish a new precedent of the most alarming description. The claim need not be limited to wholesale dealers. I know not why the retail dealers should not make the same claim. If it be a just claim, the man who deals in sugar over the counter is as much entitled to make it as the man who puts his sugar in a warehouse. Nor is it easy to see why the privilege should be limited to persons in the neighbourhood of a Custom House. York is a great 1788 sugar market. It has no Custom House. Why should York be excluded? [Mr. CRAWFORD: Make the concession general.] I am speaking of the proposal of my hon. Friend as it stands. He is bound to present it to us in a form which will hold water. I say I cannot understand why those whose dealings in sugar are above a hundred-weight at a time should receive a privilege denied to those whose dealings are below a hundredweight; or why those who live in the neighbourhood of a Custom House should be entitled to something which those who live 50 or 100 miles away do not enjoy. The subject is one of great difficulty and complexity, and I am willing that what was done should be submitted to fair criticism. What we did was this—we saw that precedent was in favour of giving a drawback to the manufacturers, and we saw equally clearly that precedent was against giving any drawback to the dealers. There are people who manufacture by a comparatively quick process, and the question was whether they should be ranged under the manufacturers who were to be allowed time to get rid of their goods, or under the wholesale dealers, who ought not to be allowed time. Acting under the best advice, and being informed of what my hon. Friend the Member for the City has stated, that the manufacturer, instead of occupying some 12 days may, by centripetal action, accomplish the process of manufacturing a certain kind of sugar in 24 hours, we thought their position very little different from that of the dealers, and placed them in the same category with the dealers, and did not extend the time allowed. That was our position. It has been represented to me from many quarters, and Government have considered that there may be hardship where the manufacturer took longer time for the particular process, and the case was well worthy of consideration. It may be that it would have been better in the first instance had we yielded more, at any rate, to the claims of these gentlemen. But that was the position we took up, and after hearing all parties, after reading many memorials, we determined to make a concession to them. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for the City, I announced some time ago that we would make the concession. Therefore, as re- 1789 gards the Motion of my hon. Friend, the matter stands thus. I will read my hon. Friend's Motion. He proposes—That provision should be made in the Bill for the Drawback of the amount of the Duty reduced.As to that, my hon. Friend says I estimated the deduction at too large a sum; it ought to be smaller. I rather think that he is right, from the inquiry I have made. I will not quarrel with him about that. He says instead of 3s. it ought to be 1s. 6d.I am quite open to conviction on that point. I think 3s. too much, and it may be 1s. 6d. is sufficient. I think he need not press me further upon that, always maintaining the principle, for I believe it has never been usual to allow the whole drawback. Then his first proposal is—On such Duty-paid Sugar as remained in any bonded warehouse on the close of Tuesday, the 12th April, 1870.That was certainly within the principle of 1845. I do not approve that principle; but I am quite willing to be guided by precedent in this matter. I now come to the third proposal of my hon. Friend—leaving out for the moment the second—On the Stocks of Sugar under process of manufacture on the premises of Refiners on the close of Tuesday, the 12th April, 1870, which can be identified to the satisfaction of the officers of Her Majesty's Customs.That concession I have already made to my hon. Friend in answer to his Question in the House before. Therefore the whole difference between us now lies in the second proposal—On the Stocks of Manufactured Sugar, other than Refined Sugar, or Sugar equal in quality thereto (entitled to the Drawback of 12s. the cwt.), being in quantity not less than 100 cwt., and in packages unbroken, in the hands of Refiners and Dealers, on the close of Tuesday, the 12th April, 1870, in places where there are Customs Authorities.The whole difference between my hon. Friend and me lies in two words—"and dealers." As far as "refiners" go I have already made the concession, and the question is, what should be done with the case of the "dealers?" The proposition of my hon. Friend is simply this—he recognizes no difference between refiners and dealers wholesale and retail. We are to treat them all precisely alike. Now, that is a principle of a most formidable description. It is an entire innovation in the method of dealing 1790 with this subject, and it will be fraught in future with results which, I believe, will be most disastrous to the public interest. I would most willingly, if I could, meet my hon. Friend half-way. I should be perfectly well pleased to do so, considering the quarter from which the proposition comes; but there are some things that a person with any sense of duty to the public will not consent to do, and for my part I would rather bear the censure of my hon. Friend than consent to lay down for my own guidance—if I should have the honour to hold my present Office for another year—and the guidance of those who come after me, so dangerous a principle as that, in the repeal of Customs' duties, the dealer is to be treated precisely on the same footing with the manufacturer. There is no precedent for that. It would entail enormous expense and confusion. No Customs' Department that ever existed, or which you might improvise for the moment, could possibly exercise that check over stocks in the hands of dealers which would be necessary in justice to the public. It must necessarily tend to enormous losses and frauds, and I cannot think that the House will lay down a principle so destructive of the public interests. The matter really at issue between us is not an amount of money, although I do not, of course, know what the amount may be, but it is the principle I look to; and while the Government cannot consent to allow thus broadly, as it is here put by my hon. Friend, that the dealer should be placed on the same footing as the refiner, they are willing to consider with him, and with those who hold similar opinions, any means by which some compensation might be made, or something done to meet what certainly does in these cases operate more or less as a hardship. I have shown that the dealers have no claim. What relief they have had has been accidental and ancillary to that extended to other people; but, nevertheless, there may be, and there is probably, some hardship in the case, and so long as we keep up the clear distinction between dealers and refiners, I should be glad to do what we can to meet the suggestions of my hon. Friend. I sincerely hope whatever is done, and however anxious the House may be to give relief, it will not inflict so fatal a blow on the interests of the public as to go in defi- 1791 ance of all precedent in the taking off of any tax for the last 30 years, and insist on relieving every dealer in any commodity throughout the country—for there is no difference between the dealer in sugar and any other article—of the amount of taxation to which that commodity may be liable.
§ MR. T. BARING
said, he had not changed the opinion he formerly expressed with reference to the Government sale of Consols; with all deference to the great capacity of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he thought that financial operation neither creditable to the Government nor advantageous to the country. The right hon. Gentleman had gone the length of saying that those who advocated justice to holders of sugar wanted him, three or four months before bringing in his Budget, to make known what his proposal was. But they asked nothing of the kind. What he (Mr. T. Baring) believed they did ask was, in conformity with the interests of the country, that if any sudden or great change was to be introduced, those who dealt in the commodities affected should have their position fairly considered, and justice, if possible, accorded to them. The right hon. Gentleman said he was willing to take into consideration any suggestions which might be made to him; and it was to be hoped that, whenever the forms of the House allowed, there would be some more distinct announcement on the part of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman allowed the principle of a drawback with regard to loaf sugar; but it was only right that every possible pains should be taken to do justice to all classes, whether dealers or refiners. The right hon. Gentleman drew this distinction—that, if there was a class connected with the trade who were manufacturers and not importers, justice was to be done to the manufacturers and refused to the importers. That was a principle which would not hold good. To whatever extent justice could be afforded, it ought to be done; and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced any great change in any trade, pains should be taken to make the change as little injurious as possible. The right hon. Gentleman said that the dealer in sugar might so regulate his trade as to be a small holder, or no holder at all; but what would be the 1792 effect if the traders of this country did not feel a confidence that any Government would take into consideration the question of justice to those classes affected by any great change. The result would be that the entire trade of the country would be paralyzed. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman wished to do only that which was just and proper; but the right course would be for him to say that he drew no distinction between this and that class, but that his great object was to grant justice to all likely to be injured by the proposed change.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
said, that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward the Budget he expressed general approval of it, though he mentioned that injustice was done by not including the manufacturers of semi-refined sugar in the allowance of time granted to the manufacturers of refined sugar. He concurred generally in what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had now stated; but he was not able to follow the right hon. Gentleman to the full extent he went. If the right hon. Gentleman meant that the trader must, as he once said of the money market, take care of himself, and that if, when duties were raised, a trader chose to speculate in paying duties, and when duties were lowered reduced his stock to the lowest amount, the Government had nothing to do with that matter, there was much to be said upon that view of the question. He also thought that, in the case of time being allowed, the trade were often under a mistake in supposing that the allowance of time was an advantage to them. He was now speaking of tea and articles of that sort, not being the subject of manufacture; and he did not see that with respect to them either a drawback or time could be given. There would be great risk of the commission of frauds, and, in his opinion, the trade would be as much paralyzed by the allowance of time as by the expectation of a change of duty. When time was given, in such a case strong holders held and weak holders gave way, and the result was either that trade was paralyzed or prices fell just as if no time had been allowed. But it was, as had been said, a very different thing with regard to a manufactured article. There was obviously great difference between merely refraining to take goods out of bond, and suspending a manufactory, throwing people out of 1793 work, and incurring the expense which, the suspension of a manufactory necessarily entailed. Nevertheless, the majority of refiners did, as the hon. Member for London (Mr. Crawford) had stated, very much curtail their operations, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had refused all concession he could have understood it; but he could not understand on what principle a drawback was allowed to a refiner on the manufactured goods he held for the trade, and refused to the dealers in those places where the custom was that they should, as it were, act as warehousers for the refiners, and hold the stocks which refiners held elsewhere. It was quite right not to allow a drawback to mere dealers; butitwas quite a different thing to allow a drawback to a a manufacturer and dealer combined. According to the custom of Bristol the dealer and refiner did together what, according to the custom of London, the refiner did alone. Now, if a drawback were allowed to the refiner in the latter case, by the same reason it ought to be allowed in the former case to the refiner and dealer, who were two persons carrying on two operations, which elsewhere were carried on by one. He did not agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal to make a deduction from the drawback corresponding to the expense of exporting sugar. He thought there was no reason in this, and it recalled to his mind the faulty system which formerly led to the exportation to Jersey. The only intelligible principle, was either to let the trade take care of itself, or, in order to mitigate as much as possible the effects of change, to place those affected on the same footing with regard to each other as they would be in had all cleared off their stocks entirely; for it was no answer to a man who complained of loss on account of his large stocks, to say that he shared in the general benefit of the remission of duty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not distinctly state what he intended to do on this point; but if the right hon. Gentleman meant that when a dealer and refiner was carrying on the two operations together, a drawback would be allowed—though certainly not to retail dealers throughout the country, that would be the proper course to pursue. Though he admitted that the doctrines laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer were generally correct, yet he thought that 1794 the peculiarity of the refiner and dealer being one person in one place, and two persons in another, did require in justice that the same rule should be applied in both cases.
§ MR. MACFIE
said, it had been admitted on all hands that Her Majesty's Government intended to do justice. From his own experience of the sugar trade, having been connected with it for 40 years, he knew that this was a difficult question. The sugar duty was a subject of great intricacy; and he did not wonder that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as those to whom he had resorted for information, had found himself bewildered. He (Mr. Macfie), however, thought that justice could be done in the matter with ease and safety. In 1830 and 1831 there was a large reduction in the duty, and a drawback was allowed on the refined sugar held as well by grocers as refiners, who, moreover, had seven weeks given them to work off their stocks. Since that time sugar had become a great article of manufacture. In Liverpool the wholesale grocers were refiners, and they fell under the proposition of the Government; but in Bristol it was not so. There warehousemen came between the wholesale grocers and the refiners. Therefore, it was necessary to make an alteration in order to do justice. A great injustice would be done to his constituents if they were not allowed a drawback upon the quantity they had in store. It was not an alteration of principle that was required, but merely an extension of the principle already laid down.
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he hoped the case of those who manufactured in places where there was no Custom House would receive consideration from the Government. The mere fact of having a manufactory in a place where there was no Custom House was not a good reason for imposing on a man a heavy fine which was remitted in the case of others. If some machinery could be devised by which those manufacturers should be able to prove, to the satisfaction of the Government, what amount of stock they held upon a particular day, they were just as well entitled to relief as any other class of men in the country.
said, he wished to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer was rightly understood to say that he was going to deal out to indivi- 1795 duals, who might consider themselves aggrieved by his propositions, relief out of the surplus which was forced upon him; and whether he alluded to a reduction of the passenger duty, or still had that object in view?
§ MR. PEEK
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take into consideration the case of those who, being dealers, as a matter of convenience, after purchase, frequently allowed goods to remain where they were. There could be no doubt that if a drawback were allowed on a parcel of sugar because it belonged to a manufacturer, another parcel lying under the same roof ought not to meet with different treatment because it belonged to a dealer. He represented a trade which unfortunately was unhinged every spring for weeks on account of the Budget. He differed from the right hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen Cave) as to the inexpediency of giving time when a great change was to be made with regard to any particular trade. He thought that in every case where the duty had to be reduced it would be sound policy to give time, and then large and small dealers would, know what they had to expect and when to expect it.
§ MR. ORR EWING
said, that 20 years ago nine-tenths of the sugar consumed in this country was raw sugar; but now the case was reversed, and nine-tenths of it was refined. Previously to this great change the sugar held in this country was held in bond; but now persons who held great quantities were dealers, to whom the Government refused to do justice. He did not ask that the small dealers should have any drawback; what he did ask was, that the great dealers, who could not defraud the Government—because in Scotland, at least, the whole of that sugar was in the hands of the refiners—should have it. It would be quite easy, therefore, to get a correct note of the quantity. He knew one gentleman in Glasgow who held no less than 700 tons of sugar in the hands of the refiner, and the House might fancy the enormous loss he would sustain if the right hon. Gentleman did not give way.
Sir, although we have now arrived at an hour when the House naturally desires that a discussion should be brought to a conclusion, the 1796 principles involved in this question are of such great importance, and the doctrines propounded by some hon. Members are so subversive of the financial system of this country and so inconsistent with justice, that I hope the House will listen to me for a few moments. In the first place, I will refer to what has fallen from the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross), because, although criticism on details is not really a matter in which I must indulge, yet I must point out that the regulations somewhat arbitrarily laid down by the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford), are of very great importance. Under the Motion proposed by my hon. Friend, the case would be this—in every place where there is a Customs' authority every retail dealer in sugar who has the prescribed quantity would be entitled to obtain a drawback upon it; but where there is no Customs' authority he would not be able to obtain it. But what relation is there between the Custom House in Thames Street and the retail dealer in Islington? No relation whatever. My hon. Friend therefore proposes that we should commit a palpable injustice, by saying to the retail dealer in Islington—"If you have got 100 cwt. of sugar in unbroken packages you shall get the drawback upon it;" but if we go to York or any of the great inland towns where there are no Customs' authorities there the drawback shall be refused. I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen Cave) with pleasure, because he evidently saw the difficulty of the case, and it is possible to deal with him; but it is quite impossible to satisfy those whom I may call the generous Members of the House. The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) says that in matters of this kind there ought to be no distinction between class and class; and this magnanimous sentiment found its way to the heart of the House, and was loudly cheered by hon. Members who felt themselves lifted above the vulgarity of pounds, shillings, and pence—considerations which the Government, as stewards of the public money, are bound to consider. But with this generous class of Members, I am obliged to join issue and to say that it is incumbent upon the Government to draw a distinction between class and class. The hon. Member said 1797 —"How hard to do no justice to the importer;" but no one had asked that it should be done, and he can do justice to himself, for the bonding system enables him to avoid paying the duty upon any commodity before it has passed into the hands of some one else. I must, therefore, draw a distinction between class and class, however much the hon. Member may protest. The hon. Member says that there ought to be no distinction between the manufacturer and the dealer. If you draw no distinction between the manufacturer and the dealer, of course you ought to draw no distinction between the dealer who has a single hundredweight and the dealer who has a hundred hundredweight. To that, also, I object, for if you draw no distinction you will have the shopkeeper coming with a pound of sugar in his hand and asking for drawback upon it. It is the distinction between class and class upon which turns the whole justice and prudence of Parliament dealing with these cases. Now, let us see what are the demands that have been made, and what it is that the Government are willing to concede. We are willing to concede, first, all that appears to be just; and, secondly, all that appears to be in any manner supported by precedent; and I do not think the House will be disposed to force us beyond those limits. With respect to precedent, let me first say that the reference to the Excise can do nothing but darken the case. In the case of the Excise the collectors ascertain the stocks on hand all over the country previous to any fiscal change. When you raise a duty of Excise, by means of your knowledge of the stocks in the country, you immediately raise the duty on those stocks, and it follows, as a matter of course, that when you reduce a duty you grant a corresponding drawback. There is no doubt at all about that; but what has that to do with the Customs' duties? When you raise a Customs' duty you do not go into the warehouses of the wholesale dealers and compel them to pay the increase. My hon. Friend the Member for the City must be in error in the case he cited. My hon. Friend quoted the case of a certain trader, who had told him of an increase of duty; but as it avowedly referred to a remote period, his memory must have been at fault. I aver, on the authority of the Revenue Department, that there is no such thing 1798 as charging an increased duty upon a commodity in the bonded warehouse which has paid duty. When a Customs' duty is raised, you never impose the increase upon the stocks in the hands of the dealers; and yet we have heard from those most generous of all generous men—the hon. Members for Bristol (Mr. Morley) and St. Ives (Mr. Magniac) this most formidable doctrine, not with regard to sugar alone, much less with regard to manufactured sugar, but with regard to all articles subject to duty, that when you reduce a duty you ought to go all through the country and ascertain what unsold stocks there are in the hands of the dealers, and immediately grant them a drawback by way of compensation. If the House chooses to say that shall be done, very well; but let it adopt that course with its eyes open, and let those who advocate it undertake the responsibility of applying it to the finances of the country: it is impossible for us, however we may respect its propounders, to give any countenance whatever to the principle, and that is precisely our objection to the Motion of the hon. Member as it stands. The Motion divides itself into three branches; we accept the first and third, and the second, so far as it relates to refiners. I have only one limitation to make, and it is this—My hon. Friend (Mr. Crawford) contends that the whole amount of duty ought to be given in the drawback; but that is not according to precedent. There must be some limit. That, however, is a mere question of money, and upon that point we are not likely to quarrel with my hon. Friend; our resistance is offered to the requirement that we should treat dealers as if they were manufacturers. If the hon. Member will recede from that demand; if he will consent to let us examine the case of dealers separately, and consider what cases there are in which a distinction ought to be drawn in favour of dealers, and in which they ought to be put into the category of manufacturers, we are willing to do that. The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Orr Ewing) mentioned the case of a dealer who has a considerable stock not yet removed from the refiner's, but which has become the dealer's property; we shall not quarrel about such a case. I am satisfied such cases can be met; but, if the Motion be pressed for putting the dealer upon 1799 the same footing as the manufacturer, it would be inconsistent with our duty to accept it, because we must consider how far the obliteration of the distinction would lead us. It would lead us the whole length of the principle laid down by the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley), who says you cannot possibly draw a distinction between the dealers in manufactured articles and the dealer in any other Customs' dutiable articles. If the dealer in manufactured sugar has a claim, the hon. Member's assumption is that the wholesale dealer in tea has precisely the same claim, and that the wholesale dealer in wine, or any commodity, also has the same. Supposing the wine duties to be reduced, which is not very likely, I should think, does the hon. Member (Mr. Crawford) suppose that those who are possessed of stocks of wines will get drawback? No, not one farthing. The supposed precedent which he quoted was a precedent good occasionally, founded upon a special arrangement made beforehand and at the instance of the Government. I meet his reference to wine by saying boldly that if we were to reduce the duties on wine, not one farthing would be repaid under any arrangement now in force. This principle of recognizing the right of dealers to drawback without limitation, and upon the same footing as if they were manufacturers, is a principle we cannot agree to; but the particular cases in which it ought to be recognized, or in which there is a claim on the part of dealers to be liberally treated, because no time has been granted to them, we are ready to examine. A sweeping Resolution of this kind, however, which would carry with it logical consequences, we are bound strenuously to resist, and if the Motion be pressed we shall be obliged, at some inconvenience to Public Business, to allow the principal words in the Question to be displaced, in order to propose an Amendment. After what I have said, expressive of our willingness to go as far as justice or precedent will carry us, I trust that the hon. Member will display a genial disposition, and will not attempt to snatch what I must say would be a petty triumph.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
Sir, as I am now, with the exception of the Secretary of State for War, the only Member at present in the House who took part in the discussion at the time when the prece- 1800 dent of allowing this drawback was forced upon the Government, I may be permitted to say that I have always felt it to be the duty of those who administer the Revenue in the House of Commons to make their changes in the Revenue so that they shall entail as little loss as possible upon the public. The merchants, manufacturers, and traders are, in reality, the agents of the Government in collecting the duty from the consumers, by whom this duty is ultimately paid, and, in the ordinary course of trade, the hands of the merchant and refiner become, for the purposes of duty, the hands of the Government. If Government and the Parliament step in and lower the duties at a particular juncture, the loss falls upon those who are engaged in collecting the duty. You cannot, of course, follow that line of argument beyond a certain point; it is impossible to trace in that way the collection of the Revenue down to the minutest trader, and it becomes, therefore, a matter of degree. Having been one of those who were disposed to look with favour on the general principle of the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford), I do think, after listening very carefully to the debate, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government have made as great concessions as could fairly be expected at their hands. I think, therefore, that if my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London will accept the proposal which has been made to him on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he should suggest any particular cases of hardship with respect to dealers which could be met with fairness and without entailing a sacrifice on the part of the public, my hon. Friend will have discharged his duty to his constituents, and to those whose interests he represents, and will, at the same time, be acting in a matter gratifying to the great body of Members on this side of the House who look with favour upon his Motion.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he understood the Government to agree to two out of the three Resolutions which he had proposed, and also to the third Resolution, excepting so much of it as referred to "dealers." If the Government were willing to meet him thus far—to allow the drawback, in the first 1801 place, on the stocks of dealers in the hands of the refiners; and, secondly, upon the stocks of those large dealers in Bristol, and other parts, which came to them direct from the refiners, and had not passed into general trade, then, subject to the opinions of those hon. Members who were more immediately connected with the trade, he should be prepared to assent to the Government proposals.
§ MR. CARDWELL
It is very important that there should be no misunderstanding as to the words which we use. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has intimated his willingness to go further than this clause would do, if the word "dealers" were left out, and to take an intermediate course, applying the same principle which has been conceded to all cases of dealers that really fall within the equity of the refiner and manufacturer. With that view my right hon. Friend will not, without the consent of my hon. Friend (Mr. Crawford) behind me, desire to close the Committee tonight, in order that there may be an opportunity of considering the precise terms which it is desirable to use.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill consideredin Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clauses 1 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.
§ Clause 6 (Farmers may steep and germinate grain to be consumed by animals).
§ COLONEL BRISE
said, that the terms of the Bill imposed needless restriction upon a farmer wishing to sprout his barley, binding him down to notices and conditions with which, from the circumstances of the holding, it was often difficult, if not almost impossible, to comply. He trusted that the time would soon arrive when every farmer might use his malt kilns freely and without restriction. The fact was, that all the Chancellor of the Exchequer now did was to legalize that which had long been done on the sly; for, unless malt was used imme- 1802 diately, it was not only not nutritious, but even positively unwholesome. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the omission of these restrictions from, the clause.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 11, to leave out from the word "animals" to the end of the Clause.—(Colonel Brise.)
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he had placed a similar, but less comprehensive, Amendment on the Paper, and. he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would, at least, concede the smaller boon if he would not accept the Amendment now proposed. Unless this were done, the farmers of Kent and Sussex would be debarred of the privilege which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to give them; and, as the right hon. Gentleman had, in his speech on introducing the Budget, acknowledged that this was a grievance, it would be well if the right hon. Gentleman would make the concession in a gracious and generous manner, and unaccompanied by these restrictions. This concession would be the more acceptable, as the privilege of using what was popularly known as "Gladstone's mixture" had proved of little or no service to farmers.
§ MR. C. S. READ
observed that unless these restrictions were removed this so-called boon would be almost intolerable to the farmer, who, if he steeped any grain without giving due notice to the Excise, would be liable to the trifling penalty of £100 for his remissness. He contended that there ought to be no difficulty in conferring the boon unfettered by restrictions, which would seriously interfere with the advantages which would otherwise accrue to agriculture, and deprive farmers of some they now possessed.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, the remarks of the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. C. S. Read) were founded on a misapprehension. The hon. Member seemed to think the effect of the 1st sub-section of the clause would be that on every steeping of grain on a farm, however small the quantity steeped, and however often the steeping occurred, the 1803 farmer would have to give notice of it to the Excise. He himself interpreted the clause in no such way. Reading it in connection with the context, and with its whole object, he took it to mean that with reference to the steeping and germinating of grain as allowed by that clause, grain should be steeped and germinated in a given place; and that, before the place was appropriated to that purpose, it should be indicated to the Excise. There was no doubt that, as the clause was worded, it would not work with perfect equality, and that there might, in certain cases, be some trouble and some hardship attending it; but the real practical question was this—They started with the fact that they were determined to maintain the malt tax, and they were asked to concede a certain privilege to the farmer, as far as the concession could be made consistently with the safety of the Revenue. Well, those restrictions and regulations were framed with that view; and in the opinion of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, who were responsible for their working, it would be impossible to dispense with those restrictions in the manner now suggested. The main regulation or restriction referred to the building or place where the grain was to be steeped and germinated; and the clause provided that—Every such building or place shall be situate on the farm upon which the grain is to be consumed, and at a distance of a quarter of a mile at least from any malt-house or from any kiln upon which malt or grain could be dried; or, if not so situated, shall be otherwise situate to the satisfaction of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue.If, therefore, the place were on the farm and at a distance of a quarter of a mile from any kiln, no special licence would be required from the Excise; but many cases might occur in which, where the place was not on the farm, or, being on the farm, was at a less distance than a quarter of a mile from a malt-house or kiln, it would be impossible to make the concession contained in the clause without those safeguards. Yet, it was within the discretion of the Commissioners, if it could be done with safety to the Revenue, to allow a place to be used for the steeping and germinating of grain, even although it might not come strictly within those conditions. The Committee might, therefore, feel that those restrictions were not merely arbitrary, that they were necessary for the protection of the 1804 malt tax, and that, after all, they would not impose so much hardship or inconvenience as appeared to have been supposed.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, he thought the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. C. S. Read) was quite justified in his remarks. By the terms of the clause, before steeping any grain, the farmer was required to give notice to the Excise of the places where he meant to steep it. [Mr. STANSFELD: He need not repeat that notice—he had to give it once only.] As the words stood, they seemed to bear the construction which the hon. Member for South Norfolk put upon them; and it was not expedient to allow any doubt or ambiguity to attach to them.
§ MR. C. S. READ
said, the Secretary to the Treasury had misapprehended his observations. The clause declared that it should be lawful for the farmer to steep grain; but it required him, before doing so, to deliver a notice to the officer of Excise. Nothing should ever induce him to germinate grain under those restrictions; but he wanted to know whether he was to be allowed to steep grain as he had been accustomed to do, like most other fanners, without being bound to give such a notice or making himself liable to a penalty of £100.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the intention of the Government was that notice should be given once for all of the place to be used for steeping purposes, and he thought it would do if they struck out the words "before steeping any grain."
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he hoped the boon proposed to be given to the farmers would not be so hampered that they would be unable to make any use of it. The Government ought not to proceed on the assumption that the farmers were such downright rogues that they would endeavour in every possible way to defraud the Revenue.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was sorry that he could not accede to the request made to him. He disclaimed any particular distrust of the farmers of England; but all our Revenue law was drawn in a spirit of the most profound distrust of mankind generally. The restriction imposed by this clause was almost the sole one of any importance, and it amounted only to what was necessary to inform the Excise. The policy of the matter was quite 1805 clear, and they could not dispense with an essential safeguard of the Revenue in the case of hop-growing or other countries.
§ Question put, "That the words 'under the following conditions' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 47; Noes 31: Majority 16.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he had to move, in line 13, to leave out "before steeping any grain," with the view of meeting the objections of hon. Members opposite.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. C. S. READ
said, that it was monstrous that a farmer should be precluded from steeping grain, unless it were in a place of which notice had been given to the Excise, and he wished to take the sense of the Committee upon the expediency of omitting the words "steeped or" in sub-Section 4.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he could not consent to the proposal of the hon. Member, which would permit a process dangerously like the making of malt to be gone through. He could not see the object to be attained in crushing or grinding the corn after it was steeped.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would consult with the officers connected with the Inland Revenue, and, if possible, would suggest something on the Report to meet the views expressed by hon. Members. If he failed to comply with their request it would still be competent for them to raise the question on the Report.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 7 to 10, inclusive, agreed to.
§ Clauses 11 to 16 (Duty on Railway Traffic Receipts.)
§ Clause 11.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he thought some explanation was due from the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the cause of his now proposing to omit the provisions relating to taxes on railway traffic.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that a deputation, representing £29,000,000 of the £39,000,000 of income of railways in the United Kingdom, had informed him they would much prefer being without the boon he had proposed to confer on them; and as 1806 he, representing the taxpayer, had no objection to keep the proceeds of the present tax, he thought it better to let matters stand as they were. He was surprised when the deputation explained their case to him; but, as the matter was somewhat complicated, he would not go into it fully unless the Committee particularly wished it.
said, he would not attempt to divide the Committee; but he must protest against the summary dismissal of six clauses from the Bill, with scarcely a word of explanation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was a member of a deputation which had laid before him very weighty reasons for adhering to his original proposal. The right hon. Gentleman had, with a frankness and geniality which distinguished him, confessed that he knew nothing whatever of the matter.
said, he did not insist upon that point; but the right hon. Gentleman must either have known all about the matter before he decided, and have come to an erroneous conclusion, or else he must have decided in ignorance of the facts. The tax on railway traffic was imposed in lieu of the revenue formerly obtained from post-horses, and now that the tax on the few remaining post-horses was abolished the tax on railway traffic should also be done away with.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he must take exception to the Chancellor of the Exchequer having used the word "boon." His proposal could not have been a boon to the railway proprietors, and he must have known it.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, in that case the Cabinet must have come to a decision without being cognizant of the facts. When the right hon. Gentleman said the railway companies did not wish to have this "boon" he used an improper word.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was quite willing to explain the matter. The Government proposed 1 per cent on the general traffic of the railways instead of, as at present, a tax upon passengers carried in trains other than those certified by the Board of Trade. The remission caused by that 1807 change would have amounted to £100,000, and the proposal was made on the presumption that the railways would be considerable gainers by the change. That was the opinion of the Railway department of the Board of Trade. But it appeared that many of the lines were not friendly to the proposal for this reason—The Legislature had fixed a maximum for fares, and had charged 5 per cent upon passengers in uncertified trains, so that one would suppose the taking away of that 5 per cent would have benefited the railways; but in a great many, and these the largest railways, that was not the case, because two years after the Legislature had fixed the maximum the companies came to Parliament and obtained private Acts to allow them to charge the 5 per cent in addition to the maximum fixed by the general Act, so that the tax was actually shifted by the companies on to the shoulders of the public long ago. The intention of the Legislature had been defeated, and the tax was borne by the general public. The railways, therefore, so far from being benefited by the proposed change would be losers to the extent of 1 per cent. He had thought it useless now to persevere with the clauses, for the good he had meant to do for the railway companies they had done for themselves already. The circumstance showed how defective the whole system of Private Bill legislation was.
said, the right hon. Gentleman had lumped together two interests which were perfectly distinct. It was no doubt true that some railways disapproved the original proposal; but, on the other hand, others, and especially those in the South of England, were strongly in favour of it.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, he wished to state the reason which lay at the bottom of the objection on the part of the railway interest to accept the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. They objected, in the first place, to a tax being imposed on the raw material—on the mineral traffic of the country; and, in the second place, they did not wish to be subjected to a new tax which, however fair it might seem at present, might be extended on some future occasion as an easy means of raising Revenue. He happened to know that these motives influenced the action of the London and North-Western Company. The railway companies de- 1808 clined to accept what was supposed to be a boon, and preferred to wait till next year, when they hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to do them justice.
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had displayed a very extensive knowledge of this subject to the deputations which had waited upon him. He regretted, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had not given to the Committee a sufficient explanation of the very inconsistent course which the Government had now determined to adopt. As a rule, taxation on locomotion was a very undesirable thing, and because certain large railways objected to a particular relaxation of such taxation it did not follow that the railway interest was opposed to all reduction. The proposal for the reduction of the duty might have been put into such a shape as to exclude the disadvantageous element of increasing the tax on the produce of the country and lessening it upon passengers. The right hon. Gentleman need not have said to the railway companies, as he practically did—"You will not take what I give you, and therefore you shall not have anything at all."
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he was very glad this quarrel had occurred between the northern and southern railways, believing that it would result in the full consideration of the subject another year. In his opinion this was an unjust and unrighteous tax altogether, and he hoped that next year the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to remit it in toto.
§ Clause negatived.
§ Clauses 12 to 16, inclusive, negatived.
§ Clauses 17 and 18 agreed to.
§ Clause 19 (Grant of duties of income tax specified in schedule).
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, it seemed to him that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government were proceeding in a manner by which the local administration of income tax was gradually being withdrawn and absorbed. Under these clauses the companies' assessment in regard to the administration of the income tax would be withdrawn from the local Commissioners.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would remark that that would not be the effect of the clause now under consideration.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he was, obliged to deal with several clauses together under the peculiar form of the Bill. In older times, what was called systematic tacking or clubbing into one Bill several provisions relating to almost every one of the principal sources of Revenue, was not submitted to by the House of Commons; they would not allow the Revenue to be dealt with in that way. But the present Bill dealt with the Customs, with Excise, with Stamps, and with the income tax; and he was, therefore, bound to speak of the provisions relating to property and income tax as a whole. By these clauses the administration of property and income tax was gradually being withdrawn from the local Commissioners and placed under the special Commissioners, or central authority. It had been held that in all matters of direct taxation the people of the country ought locally to tax themselves. One reason was that there would be no appeal. At present the appeal was from the local Commissioners to the central authority; but if the business was transferred at once to the special Commissioners, the appeal would be lost.
, interposing, pointed out that the hon. Gentleman's remarks were specifically directed to Clause 21.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the fault rested, as he had said before, with the form of the Bill; but he would postpone his observations until they reached the 21st clause.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 20 agreed, to.
§ Clause 21 (Special commissioners to assess public companies).
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that several hon. Members had represented to him that they had not had sufficient time to consider this and the following clause. He therefore proposed to withdraw them for the present, and bring them up again on the Report.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
thanked the right hon. Gentleman for removing for the time the difficulty which he (Mr. Newdegate) felt, and he could only hope that these objectionable clauses would be not only temporarily but entirely withdrawn.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
said, he wished to express his obligations to the Chancellor 1810 of the Exchequer for withdrawing the clauses for the present. It was only within the last few days that many persons in Scotland, who were most interested in the question, had had their attention called to it.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he had been requested by gentlemen connected with various companies in the City to state their objections to these clauses; but would reserve any statement on the subject until they were re-introduced in another form.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be induced to withdraw these clauses altogether. It would be well to do so, to prevent a recurrence of the catastrophe which had occurred that evening.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBR00KE
said, he thought that the existing arrangements had worked very smoothly, and that there was no occasion to disturb them.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, that many representations had been made to him against these clauses, not only from the public, but the collectors themselves. The change would cause a loss of income to the collectors for work already done. This was really the remunerating part of the work, and the clauses would decrease the income of the Liverpool collectors by £100 a year, or about a third. If the clauses were brought up on the Report, the date should be altered to the 1st of April next year. It was worthy of consideration whether the whole subject of the compensation and superannuation of the collectors should not be dealt with in connection with these clauses next year.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not bring up these clauses again on the Report. If he would say so now, it would save hon. Members a great deal of trouble.
§ Clauses 21 and 22 withdrawn.
§ Clause 23 (Persons returning lists of others in their employ to state amount of salary, &c.).
§ MR. HERMON
said, he regarded this clause as very unjust. Employers could be called upon at present to give lists of the names of persons employed in their service; but this clause, for the first time, proposed to compel them also to return a list of their salaries. The Chancellor 1811 of the Exchequer could not conceive the inconvenience which would be occasioned by this clause to the employers of labour. For them to hand over to the collectors a list of the persons they employed, with the salaries they received, would almost amount to sending it to The Times newspaper. The salary of every person in the establishment would be as well known as if it had been mentioned to each person by his employer, and the greatest heartburning would be caused. It would be found that one person was receiving a few pounds more than another, and great dissatisfaction would result. It would be more reasonable to compel the employers of labour to pay the income tax for their employés, and that was what the clause evidently aimed at. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No.] It was alike unfair to employer and employed, and he hoped the Committee would not consent to it. The clerks and others employed in establishments possessed as much good feeling and were likely to make as fair a return as the class of tradesmen. It was thought right that these persons should be intrusted with the elective franchise, and it was not fair to them to publish their incomes to the gaze of their fellow-employéswhen it might be the desire of their employers to keep it secret.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he did not regard the clause as a matter of the first consequence; but the arguments of the hon. Gentleman were not sufficiently cogent to induce him to give it up. It was necessary that the income tax should be levied on those in the receipt of £100 a year, and he did not suppose that the House wished those who were liable to it to escape. Was it, then, unreasonable to expect that employers should give a list of persons with their salaries, so as to save the Departments the trouble of making inquiries into the amount? Why should the expense of collecting the Revenue be increased to save employers from performing a duty so simple and so easy? This was not a case in which money was collected to be sent out of the country to some foreign potentate. It was, on the contrary, everybody's business to facilitate the action of the Government, and to make the collection of the Revenue simple and easy, so that the public Department concerned might be spared time which, as in other cases, was money. He 1812 hoped that the Committee would sanction the clause.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, he thought it undesirable to adopt this inquisitorial process in order to save the Department trouble. The clause, too, presumed that a man's income depended entirely upon what he received from an employer, when he might have other means of making up his income besides the salary he received, as in cases where a man was employed in one establishment while his wife or family kept a small shop elsewhere. The wisest course, he thought, would be to withdraw the clause altogether.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, he did not think the clause unreasonable. The desire was to get at the truth. But then the clause imposed upon employers such duties as they could not discharge. He would not be in a position to state the exact income of every man in his employ, as they sometimes worked in groups. He would therefore propose, as an Amendment, to insert in line 17 the words "so far as from the ordinary books of the employers such returns can be given."
§ MR. MORLEY
said, he thought the most that could be required of employers was to give a return of the amounts received by those in their employ who had salaries above the amount on which income tax was paid. The ultimate object of the Government seemed to be to make employers collectors of income tax. The clause had created a great deal of strong feeling, and it could not be passed without great difficulty.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consider the clause. It was most disagreeable for employers to be turned into something like informers.
§ MR. MELLOR
said, he would like to learn from the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in the case of a family earning upon the aggregate £100 a year from the same employer, they would be 1813 returned as only one person, or whether the head of the household, who earned perhaps only £25, would alone be returned?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that in deference to the feelings which had been expressed, he would not press the clause.
§ Clause struck out.
§ Clause 24 agreed to.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, he rose to propose a clause with respect to the liability of horses or mules kept solely for the purposes of husbandry to duty.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would suggest that the hon. Gentleman's object might be attained if he would be content with the assurance that in cases, for instance, where a farmer employed his horses in gravelling a road, and received no hire for doing so, the concession for which he asked should be made. That proposal could be carried into effect more advantageously through a regulation of the Board of Inland Revenue than by means of a clause in the Bill.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, he was afraid the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman would hardly meet the case. The Commissioners of Inland Revenue had always held the instance with which his clause dealt to come within the category of exemptions. His object was that where a surveyor of highways employed a farmer's horse for the purpose of carrying materials to the road, that horse should not thereby be liable to duty, whether the farmer received hire for the horse or constructive payment in being excused from liability to the rate. There was a practical grievance, which could be redressed without the loss of any revenue worth considering. He begged, therefore, to move the following clause:—(Horses kept for husbandry.)Whereas doubts have arisen with respect to the liability of horses or mules kept solely for the purpose of husbandry to Duty, Be it Enacted, That from and after the passing of this Act no person shall be required to take out a licence under the Act of the thirty-second and thirty-third years of the reign of Her present Majesty, chapter fourteen, for any horse or mule kept by him solely for the purpose of husbandry, on account of such horse or mule being occasionally used or employed in drawing materials for the repair of roads and highways, and whether for hire or otherwise.
§ MR. DYCE NICOL
, in seconding the Motion, said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's refusal to allow any exemption on horses so employed, was considered a great hardship in those parts of Scotland with which he was connected, particularly as turnpikes were there being entirely abolished or rapidly reduced, and the cost of the maintenance of the roads fell exclusively on the proprietors and tenant-farmers, while the public thus derived a great benefit. As the increase to the Revenue of the country by the altered mode of levying the tax proposed by the Chancellor of Exchequer must be quite trifling, he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would make this concession, which he thought the Scottish agriculturists had a right to expect at his hands.
§ New Clause (Horses kept for husbandry,)—(Mr. George Gregory,)—brought up,and read the first time.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had already made this concession—that if horses kept for use in agriculture were gratuitously used for purposes not agricultural, they should be exempt from duty. He was also willing that the same exemption should apply where a farmer employed his horses in drawing materials for the roads, receiving no pay, but only such benefit as followed from a reduction of rate. Here, however, he must stop. Some principle must guide the Committee. If a farmer were paid for the use of his horse in carting materials for roads, how could his case be distinguished from that of the farmer who made money by the hire of his horse for other purposes? Was it fair that, when so many other persons were taxed for keeping horses, these exemptions should be continually extended? He did not wish to make any new law or to expand the old law; but when a man was paid for horse hire for any purposes he should pay duty.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he wished to point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the practical effect of not acceding to the clause. The roads could not be maintained without 1815 the use of horses; in country parishes the farmers must be asked to lend their horses, and they could not be expected to lend them without payment. If the farmers knew that they were to be subject to this tax, they would not lead their horses. Practically, therefore, the parish must pay, and the result would be that more would have to be paid for the hauling of the stones, and the rates would consequently be increased. This, therefore, was not a farmers' question; it was a ratepayers' question. No public inconvenience would result if the Bill provided that horses hired for parochial purposes, merely for the purpose of maintaining the roads, should be exempted from the tax.
§ MR. SPEAKER
wished to say a word on this question on behalf of his country constituents. He would go a step further than the right hon. Gentleman who preceded him. Horses employed in agriculture were now exempted from the tax. But the maintenance of roads in a parish was really one of the main operations in agriculture: it was anterior to any other agricultural work. It was one of the first purposes in agriculture that there should be roads from one farm to another, and by which the produce could be conveyed to market; and, therefore, the making and maintaining the roads was strictly the employment of horses for agricultural purposes. It should be remembered, too, that the roads were kept up by the farmers and ratepayers for the benefit of the whole community. This seemed a small question; but it was really deranging parochial affairs in every parish, and creating uneasiness and dissatisfaction in every possessor of a team of horses in the kingdom. It was, therefore, well worthy of the consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was not quite sure that he understood the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman, who said that if no money passed there would be no necessity for taking out a licence for horses. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman this question—Suppose the farmers of a parish agreed among themselves to lead all the materials necessary for the repair of the roads, did he understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that in such a case it would not be necessary to take out a licence for their horses?
§ MR. SPEAKER
But in such case there must be some relief in the way of rates, if the carriage of the materials was done gratuitously the rates must be lightened to that extent. If it were understood that the farmers, upon agreeing among themselves to lead the materials for the roads, were to be exempt from duty, he thought some arrangement might be come to that would be more satisfactory than the present state of things.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, if farmers in a parish chose to unite to cart the materials for the roads, the fact that they thereby promoted the benefit of the ratepayers would not subject them to duty. But if they received payment for the hire of their horses, the case did not differ in principle from that of a farmer who let a horse to another farmer; though it was a horse kept for agricultural purposes, it would still be properly liable to duty.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, that this suggestion would hardly meet the case. In repairing the roads, one farmer generally did the team work. It might be that this work was in lieu of his rates, or that the service done by his horses came to something more than the rates, and then he would be liable to the tax. It would be no great concession if the right hon. Gentleman freed from duty all horses engaged in the repair of the roads and not otherwise liable to duty.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 45: Majority 4.
said, the clause had been framed in order to extend an existing exemption; there was no proposition on the part of the Government to restrict the exemption. The question was a very serious one; and though he would raise no further discussion then, the Government would consider what course it would be their duty to take respecting it at a later stage of the Bill.
§ Clause addedto the Bill.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, he wished to propose a new clause with respect to the house duty, which involved a point of great importance to families occupying rooms, especially in the City of London. At the present time there were many instances of a 1817 family living in one room, which was a disgrace to the civilization and wealth of the metropolis. The House could not say that a man should earn sufficient wages to enable him to afford better accommodation for his family; but it could reduce taxation on the dwellings which were occupied by the working classes; and the house duty was a very large addition to their rent. The dwellings which were provided by a company that was established by Sir Sydney Waterlow were free from this tax, although they would be liable to pay a large sum if they were built as dwellings let out in tenements usually were. The gross rental of those buildings was £13,030 per annum, and the net rental was £6,857. To pay a dividend of 5 per cent upon the outlay of £109,000 took £5,450. If the house duty had to be paid upon those buildings, it would amount to £310 8s., which would be equal to a tax of 5¾ per cent upon the proprietors' dividend, and the company would be compelled to charge a slightly increased rent, in order to recoup themselves the amount. While those new buildings were free from the tax, the occupiers of old and dilapidated houses had to pay a duty of 9d. in the pound because there happened to be a front door. The Chancellor of the Exchequer drew no distinction between the ownership of landed property and of house property; but there was this difference, that the landed property was always productive, while houses were not constantly let. When houses of the smaller class were not liable to house duty, and were also relieved by some means from local taxation, the House might look forward to the working classes in large towns being better lodged than they were at the present time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer looked upon rent and taxes as making one sum, forgetting that as taxation increased its burden became heavier upon the smallest houses, owing to the competition for them which was caused by that increase. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would concede the exemption from duty to houses let out in separate tenements at rentals not exceeding 7s. 8d. per week, or £20 per annum.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he hoped the Committee would not expect him to go into this case, as no Notice had been given of the 1818 clause, which had never been put on the Business Paper. The Revenue of the country ought not to be treated in this manner, as if it were a matter of no account. He could not be fairly called on to show reasons against a clause which he had not had the opportunity of perusing; but which, if passed, would, he believed, operate for the benefit of the landlords, and not of the tenants.
said, he trusted the Committee would support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his opposition to the clause. The real anomaly consisted in houses not being sufficiently taxed. Though there were 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 houses in England and Wales, only 500,000 were taxed. He had no pity for martyrs whose martyrdom returned a profit of 5 per cent.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, he had given ample Notice of the clause; but as it was not on the Business Paper, and as the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not prepared to enter upon the subject, he would withdraw the clause for the present, and move it upon the Report.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ Schedule A.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, he wished to repeat a statement he had before made, to the effect that the public did not immediately get the benefit of the reduction of the sugar duties. For some six weeks after the Budget, the price of manufactured sugar remained unaltered.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Schedule B.
§ MR. MACFIE
said, he hoped that the Government would consider the question of the restrictions on molasses for brewing purposes.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he objected to go into that question at present. The subject, however, would be carefully considered by the Government.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Schedule C.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, he wished to know why the farmers of England and Wales had to pay one-third more property tax on their rent than the farmers of Scotland?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that at the time when Sir Robert Peel introduced the income tax 1819 it was believed that the farmers of Scotland were more highly rented, in proportion to their incomes, than the farmers of England, and that, therefore, their profits were less.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Thursday next, and to be printed. [Bill 156.]