HC Deb 04 March 1870 vol 199 cc1253-89

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the Report of the Select Committee on the Malt Tax which sat in 1867 and 1868, and to move a Resolution on the subject, said the question was a very important one, and although it had often been brought before the House, it had recently assumed a now aspect. A House of Commons elected as the present House had been would not, he believed, reject the Resolution he intended to move unless it involved something contrary to the principles which the House was prepared to endorse. In bringing forward this subject he was acting in accordance with the desire of those whose interests he advocated; and, even on the ground of a Free Trade policy in its broadest sense, he thought he had a right to claim the kind attention of the House. As the representative of an agricultural constituency, he was prepared to say that they had conformed in every respect to the Free Trade policy. The agricultural interest did not wish that policy to be in anyway curtailed, but on the contrary, they wanted to see it extended in every possible way, though he would venture to express his opinion that with regard to the Malt Tax they had some sort of a grievance. They had had to compete with the producers in all parts of the world, and had done their best to show that they could and would compete with them. They had much improved the cultivation of their lands, and had furnished a better supply of meat, and they hoped that as they had accepted a Free Trade policy they deserved on that broad ground alone some little consideration at at the hands of the House of Commons. He had also to appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he would first re- fer to the fact that in his Budget of last year the right hon. Gentleman had repealed the shilling duty on corn. Whether the repeal of that duty was wise or not he would not now stop to inquire, but what was its effect? He believed that the effect had been to bring into this country, particularly during the last few months, an enormous additional quantity of foreign wheat and other grain. Now, he did not for a moment object to that, but he wished to point out that as our agriculturists had to contend against the increased quantity of produce now brought into the country, they ought to have the articles they could grow freed from taxation. Again, the right hon. Gentleman had reduced the duty on foreign beer, and assimilated it as far as he could to the duty now charged on malt. It might, no doubt, have been quite right to do so, but it ought to be borne in mind that foreign brewers could brew with anything they pleased, while English brewers could only use certain ingredients on which a very heavy duty was imposed. The agriculturists of this country entertained a very strong opinion on this subject, and he might state that next week a deputation from a body of them would make representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to it. When, however, he placed the present Motion on the Paper he was under the impression that that deputation was to be received by the right hon. Gentleman on Tuesday last; but having secured a day for a discussion he might say, without any disrespect to the Central Chamber of Agriculture, that he could not postpone the Motion, considering the amount of business which was awaiting the attention of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown had on several occasions during the time he was Chancellor of Exchequer told deputations that the House of Commons was the place where matters of this kind ought to be discussed, and that they must come here if they desired to have their grievances removed. Concurring in that opinion, he had taken the present opportunity of bringing this question forward. There were four great propositions laid down in the Report of the Committee which sat in 1867 and 1868, and which collected a vast quantity of evidence that was on the whole satisfactory. There were several hon. Gentlemen now pre- sent on both, sides of the House who served on that Committee, and he believed they would do him the justice of admitting that he, as Chairman of the Committee, endeavoured to take that evidence impartially and lay the results fairly before the House. Well, the four propositions laid down in the Report of the Committee had reference, first, to the case of the producer; secondly, to the ease of the consumer; thirdly, to the the case of large brewers, and brewers in general; and fourthly, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the revenue. Now, he would at once remark that as it was whispered that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a very large surplus he saw no reason why the agriculturists should not derive some benefit from it. He might, of course, be told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he had to consider what he should do with his surplus, and that in due time he would inform the House what his intentions were as to its disposal. Well, if the right hon. Gentleman should give him that answer he must be satisfied with it and wait. He must, however, observe that the proposition which he was about to lay before the House would enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should be think fit, to do that which would, he believed, be a great boon not only to the producer, but to the consumer. The Committee to which he had already referred examined no less than thirty-seven witnesses, some of whom were connected with the Excise, some practical agriculturists, and some maltsters. They had also examined large and small brewers, a manufacturer, a labourer, a distiller, as well as Sir Charles Pressley; and anybody who would take the trouble of reading that gentleman's evidence would, he thought, find that he was favourable to the view which he was advocating. The case of the producer, which seemed to him to be a very strong one, was simply that, owing to the enormous tax on malt in the state in which it was taken and not on the manufactured article, he was prevented from cultivating his land in the way in which he should wish, because he did not receive a proper value for the second class of, barley, which he thought he would obtain if the present duty were removed. The fact was that the duty tended, to a great extent, to the depreciation of that second class of barley, which, but for it, would be made into beer and used for feeding purposes in a very large degree. It operated to make the agriculturist cultivate his land by growing wheat, and otherwise, when, in the proper rotation of crops, he should grow barley. The First Commissioner of Works, whom he saw in his place, would recollect that he had examined one of the witnesses, who stated that he could not now sprout barley, which, he said, was permitted to be clone in former days, inasmuch as the Excise stepped in to prevent it. Now, anybody at all conversant with such matters must be aware that barley sprouted and put on the couth was, he might say almost the very best food for fattening cattle. It was also good for horses, and it was clear that if a man were able to use his own produce to feed his cattle, instead of laying out money in the purchase of artificial articles, such as oil cake, and other commodities, which now cost the farmer large sums, a great saving would be the result. Upon that point his hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Dent), who sat on the Committee, and who drew up a counter report to that which he himself had presented, expressed a decided opinion as to the propriety of allowing some relaxation of the law in favour of the sprouting of barley for the use of cattle. As the law stood it operated as a great grievance on agriculturists, and if it were altered, meat might be produced at a much cheaper rate than at present; and anything which tended to make meat cheaper must be regarded in the light of a benefit to the whole community. He had in his possession a letter which he had received from the late Mr. Cobden a short time before he died, and which he should most gladly have brought down to the House had he been able to lay his hands on it, in which he said, referring to the Malt Tax— If you go on Free Trade principles. I go with you entirely. In my opinion, if it could be done, the duty ought to be taken off altogether. They do not tax wine in France, and why should we tax the national beverage in this country, The case was a very hard one on the producer, whose barley was deteriorated in value. We could grow the best barley in the world. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) used the best quality of barley. He had been given a return by that hon. Gentleman which showed the extraordinary high prices which he had paid for the best barley, but they were not anything like the average price paid by maltsters and brewers. The hon. Gentleman required the best barley to make that capital beer which he brewed. Everybody knew that it was a good article; more than that, the hon. Gentleman could make beer out of anything. His hon. Friend would not deny what he was about to say. Some few years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister brought in a Bill that went by the name of "Gladstone's Mixture Bill" his hon. Friend declared that the measure would be a terrible thing for the brewers, and that people would brew from the "mixture." His hon. Friend did brew from the "mixture"; he brewed from good malt as well, and two barrels of beer made by him, the one from "Gladstone's mixture," and the other from ordinary materials having on one occasion being brought into that House, the present Prime Minister having drunk both, could not tell the difference between them. That showed how clever the hon. Member for Derby was in his business. According, he might add, to the Malt and Beer Returns for 1868, moved for by his hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke)—those for 1869 were not yet completed—the number of bushels of malt charged with duty in England in that year was 44,533,274; in Scotland, 2,275,119; and in Ireland, 2,795,538, while the entire quantity of barley imported into the United Kingdom was only 2,093,343 quarters. That showed that we could compete with the world with regard to barley; and, he might venture, as one humbly calling himself a practical agriculturist, to add that, if the duty were taken off, he should not be in the least afraid to compete with the foreigner. And what, he would ask, had been done for the agriculturists under the circumstances? There was that Bill to which he had already referred, introducing "Gladstone's mixture," which obliged them to grind up linseed with the malt, but it had to be ground up so small that instead of going down the animals' throats it went up their noses. There was also the "Malt by Weight Bill," which was intended to be a relief to the agriculturists, and which had been accepted by them in that spirit, but which had, on the whole, done them very little good, though they some- times availed themselves of it in wet seasons to a considerable extent. He came in the next place to the case of the consumer, and he ventured to say that, looking at the people of England as a nation, he believed they desired to be enabled to drink good beer, and that if they could get such beer as his hon. Friend the Member for Derby would pour down their throats, they would be perfectly satisfied. His hon. Friend, however, knew perfectly well that that was beyond their reach. He was quite ready to do justice to all the large brewers, who were, he believed, on the whole, extremely honest and scrupulous in their dealings, and whose beer was, as a rule, most excellent and wholesome, for he had drunk it often. But, speaking of the lower classes of the population who frequented beer-houses, he could only say that these were for the most part abominable places, in which the customers were served, not with the beer they ought to get for their money, but with a concoction of every sort of bestiality in the shape of drink, which made the poor people feel next morning that they were totally unfit for work. There was one poor fellow who said—"If I know how thirsty I was going to be this morning I would have drunk another quart last night." Now, we ought, he thought, to look to the interests of our poorer friends, and if it could be shown that by taking off the present tax and imposing the burden in any other way which the Chancellor of the Exchequer might think best, they could get pure malt and hops, a great benefit would be conferred upon them. The hon. Member for the East Division of the West Hiding of Yorkshire (Mr. Fielden), who was a large employer of labour, had given very valuable evidence before the Committee as to private brewing, and the effect which, in his opinion, the taking off the tax would have on the poor. He said— In the towns there is, I believe, little or no cottage brewing, but it is in the neighbourhood of towns; I found out of 9,822 families visited there were 7,459 who brewed at home. There were 735 who would have brewed, but they could not afford to do so; there were 597 who bought beer, and there were 1,031 who did not drink beer. This was no party question, and all he asked was that it should be fairly considered in the interest of those who lived in the neighbourhood of large towns as well as the agricultural in- terest, the third point referred to the great brewers, and he believed that if his proposal were adopted it would in no way injure them, and that, on the contrary, they would get rid of the grievance of which they now justly complained—that the commuted hop duty was placed on them, and on them alone, and that by way of substitute for the hop duty of £300,000 a year they paid 3d. per barrel, which amounted to £410,000, and they could not get it out of the general public, because the amount was so small. No doubt the tax was now a small tax, and he proposed it should be a larger tax, but it would be an elastic tax. Two bushels of malt were supposed to go to the barrel of beer. If you took 2s.d. per bushel, which was the amount of the Malt Tax, and doubled that, you would get 5s. 5d. per barrel, which, with the extra 3d. for commuted hop duty, making 5s. 8d. would be charged as brewers' licence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, with that liberality which was seen beaming in his face, would most likely begin his Financial Statement by saying that, having a large surplus, he could afford to reduce the tax at once, and, instead of 5s. 8d. only charge 3s.; and if that were the view of the right hon. Gentleman, the large brewers would have nothing to complain of. The tax was not an inquisitorial tax like that which used to exist in olden times. The old Beer Tax taken off in 1830, used to do the brewers much mischief, and hampered them in every way. But the levy of the duty he proposed would in no way be onerous. The exciseman did not interfere with the operations of the brewer, and, although he believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought no one a man of honour who had to pay him anything, there would be no difficulty in collecting this tax from the general body of public brewers. With regard to private brewers, rather than that there should be any exception, let the Chancellor of the Exchequer charge a licence duty upon them; and the estimate of what would be paid by them was £300,000. The only persons he would exempt were those who brewed half a bushel, or less than half a bushel. Many labourers brewed in such small quantities, and more would do so but for the exorbitant prices they had to pay for their malt. His opinion was that if the duty were reduced to the point he had named, the revenue would be in- creased. Well, then, if the great brewers and the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not suffer, would the maltsters complain? The only people who might complain would, he believed, be the large maltsters, who now had almost a monopoly of the business: smaller ones had to wait too long before they were paid, and could not stand the short credit given by the Government which their larger rivals were able to do. He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the House to look at the whole question broadly, and fairly to consider his proposal. It was an honest one; and, in his opinion, would benefit both the producer and the consumer, and would not hurt the Exchequer; and it was in that spirit that he moved the Resolution of which he had given notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is expedient that, in lieu of the present Duties on Malt, a reduced charge should be made on the manufactured article, Beer; and it appears to this House that a Licence imposed in the same way as the commuted Hop Duty should be charged on Public Brewers, and a Licence to Brew on all Private Brewers,"—(Colonel Barttelot,)

—instead thereof.

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


said, the advocates of the repeal of the Malt Tax had never sought to place a burden on other people's shoulders, and had never asked for this remission unless there was a surplus revenue, which they were told would this year be considerable. During the discussion reference would no doubt be made to the fact that the Report of the Committee was only carried by the casting vote of the chairman, but it should be borne in mind that three Members who were favourable to the Report were absent through accident or illness. The fact that barley had of late years commanded so good a price only proved that the soil and climate of England were peculiary adapted for its growth. The farmers could successfully compete against the whole world in producing barley, and they ought not to be hindered in the cultivation of so valuable a crop. Whereas Australia sent wheat to England, we exported a considerable quantity of barley to Australia, and he believed that if they really had Free Trade the best barley would average a higher price than wheat. It was said that Free Trade had not hurt the English farmers, but, at any rate, it has done this—their rents were raised, rates were constantly increasing, they had to pay more for labour; notwithstanding nil the appliances of science to implements and machinery, the farmers now paid more per acre for manual labour than ever they did, and oilcake and guano were becoming dearer every year. With regard to stock, the profit they derived from high, prices was not so great as that they would derive if they had lower prices and healthier cattle. After all, had not the grass farmers benefited from Free Trade rather than the tillers of the soil? Meat, butter, and cheese are dearer than they used to be, but tillage employed more money and more labour. It was constantly said that they ought not to put so much country into grass, but should keep it to tillage; but statistics proved that with the most heavy expenses the quantity of arable land was constantly diminishing. It had been proved that the Malt Tax considerably hindered the cultivation of the soil, and even in Norfolk, the best barley growing county in England, there were not so many acres of barley as of wheat, simply for the reason that with very high farming it was impossible to produce first-class barley. The evidence given before the Select Committee dispelled the delusion that the Malt Tax was any protection or advantage to even the very best class of barley. If wheat was taxed to the amount of 22s. per quarter—which would be 2d. on a 4lb. loaf—would it not limit the consumption of bread and act very prejudicially against the grower of wheat? The Malt Tax amounted to between £5 and £6 on every acre of malting barley, and it had been proved many times that when the tax was increased the consumption diminished and the price of barley became lower. That farmers were exempt from taxation might have been an argument in times gone by, but last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer removed the principal exemption from taxation, which farmers had previously enjoyed. He did not complain of that, because he advocated the abolition of all taxation that was not shared by all. Excepting the tax on horses, he did not know any tax which farmers escaped that was paid by the rest of the community, and as to that matter he desired the abolition of the, duty on all horses used for trade purposes. He cordially agreed with the abolition of the tax on fire insurances, and he offered no opposition to the repeal of the shilling duty on corn, but he contended that consumers of bread had not been benefited by that remission, for before that £1,000,000 of taxes was given up he never knew wheat to be sold for 38s. per quarter and bread at 5½d. and 6d. the 4lb. loaf. It had been said that fanners would have fair play when the Corn Laws were repealed. The late Sir Robert Peel said the repeal of the Malt Tax must follow that of the Corn Laws. Lord Russell said if he were Prime Minister when the Corn Laws were repealed, the next tax he would abolish would be the duly on malt—a promise which he feared the noble Lord had forgotten. Mr. Cobden said it would be impossible, and unjust if it were possible, to retain the Malt Tax after the repeal of the Corn Laws. Why should malt be the only article excepted from the general remission of taxation which Mr. Cobden proposed? Now, what advantage could it be to the fanner to substitute a brewers' licence for the duty on malt? From what the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the brewers' deputation a few days ago, he had some hope that the right hon. Gentleman would listen to the suggestion of the farmers and free the maltster from the exciseman. Last Saturday he was told by a maltster, who was entirely engaged in making malt for exportation to Belgium, that the forms and ceremonies he had to go through were so galling and annoying that if he had to begin again he would build his malting premises in Belgium and export his coals and barley. The abolition of the Malt Tax would also set free malt for the purpose of stock feeding. When he was a boy it was a common practice in Norfolk to germinate grain for feeding purposes, but during the last few years farmers had been debarred from doing so, and had had to sell all the appliances which they used for that purpose. But the abolition of the tax would also tend very greatly to check the adulteration of beer, for the simple reason that untaxed malt would be so cheap as to exclude sugar and the drugs which were now used. As to pri- vate brewing, it was very common among the cottagers of Norfolk and Suffolk, during haytime and harvest. Close to his residence lived a poor widow, who brewed as little as a quarter of a peck of malt and two ounces of hops at a time, and he could assure his hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass), that last Sunday she gave him a bottle of beer which was infinitely preferable to the table beer supplied in the dining-room of this House. It need not be difficult to put a tax on private brewers, for it might be paid according to the number of quarters of malt which they consumed, and it would be quite as easy to make a return of the quantity of malt brewed as of the amount of profit under Schedule D. In fact, he believed it was now the practice of the Excise to accept the brewers' returns of the sugar used in brewing, and not to take any steps to ascertain whether those returns were true. There should, however, be a small licence duly imposed upon the maltster, in order that he might furnish proper delivery notes to the Excise, which would be useful for the prevention of fraud, and for statistical purposes. As to the particular benefit which the growers of barley would derive, he could only argue from the repeal of the hop duty, since which time his hon. Friend the Member for Derby had said the hop-growers had not only pocketed the whole amount of duty that would have been imposed, but had also received 20 per cent more for their hops than before. He did not suppose that the growers of barley would derive as great an advantage, but they would receive some substantial benefit. The brewers objected to the imposition upon them of the hop duty in the shape of a licence, because the amount was so small that they could not recover if from their customers: but he had previously suggested to the House that a charge of 1d. per gallon would be quite sufficient for revenue purposes. Last year, the brewers' licence brought in £410,000; but, if they laid on a duty of 3s. per barrel, they would get £4,920,000, and if there was to be any allowance whatever for increased consumption, as there ought to be, they might easily extract £5,500,000 from beer, which was all that ought to come from the beverage that was the labourers' chief luxury. He believed, also, that the proposed change would very much improve the habits of the people. It was ridiculous to suppose that, because wine or beer might be cheap, people were therefore drunkards. The very contrary was the case. Mr. Samuelson, not the hon. Member for Banbury, but a still higher literary authority, he believed the editor of the Westminster Review, published a very interesting article the other day on the German artizan and the English artizan, and made a strange comparison, that, whereas the German artizan could get wholesome beer at 1d. per quart, the English artizan had to pay 5d. for what was very much adulterated, and readily made him drunk. He did not go entirely with the teetotallers, who believed there was no virtue in beer. He believed that, for the labouring man, now that butchers' meat was so dear, and milk so scarce, beer was a necessary, and that it was better than so much tea, though he could hardly go as far as the old lady, who said that London porter was victuals, drink, and clothing. He had found that the man who drank his beer at home was the best agricultural labourer, and he had been told that the artizan who drank his beer with his family was not the man who, as a rule, frequented public houses. He was aware that there was a certain class who were very angry because they could not got drunk for 1s., and those were the men who liked the drugged stuff they got at public-houses; but that was no reason why cheap and wholesome beer should not be given to the labourers of this country, to whom it would be a great and inestimable blessing. During the last twenty years no less than £200,000,000 of taxation had been repealed, most of which should have gone into the pockets of the consumers, while nothing what ever had been done to better the condition of the producers of this country. After so many dishes of remission had been served to the trading, the commercial, and the manufacturing interests, he did hope that the time was come when they, the agricultural dogs, should be allowed to gather up a few crumbs from an overflowing Exchequer.


said, he wished to bear his testimony to the fact that no Committee was ever presided over more fairly or had the evidence brought before it in a more impartial manner than the Committee on the Malt Tax. When we had an increasing expenditure and a declining revenue, he did not think it prudent to deal with so important a duty, because hon. Gentlemen should bear in mind that last year it reached very nearly £7,000,000, or about one-tenth of the whole revenue of the country. They must also recollect that they were dealing with the same class of taxes as their duties on wine and spirits, which brought in something like £22,000,000 of revenue. Therefore though he would be glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could see his way to dealing with this question as his hon. Friends desired, yet, with all the surplus the right hon. Gentleman might have in hand, he should fear very much any such meddling with taxation derived from a source like spirit. He did not go quite so far as the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Read) in believing in the extreme value of beer for the working classes. A great deal of evidence had been brought before the Committee as to the taxation laid on the fanner for the beer that he gave to his labourers, but he was glad that the hon. Member did not; endorse that view of the case. Evidence had been also brought before the Committee to show that beer was not given by fanners to their labourers in lieu of wages, but anyone who looked into the question must come to the conclusion that the cry for the repeal of the Malt Tax came very much from those counties where beer was given to some extent in lieu of wages. It was also remarkable that in the blue book recently published upon the employment of women and children in agriculture, Mr. Culley, an Assistant Commissioner from the North, stated that in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Hertford, where the average wage was 12s. a week, beer was given in lieu of wages to the amount of 4s. or 5s. per week during hay and harvest, and to an average of 2s. per week throughout the year, and that the labour-cost per acre in those districts to the farmer was 30s. per acre, while in the Northern counties, where the labourers' wages were much higher, the average labour-cost did not exceed 23s. per acre; and he attributed the difference to the fact that in the North beer was almost unknown to the agricultural labourer, whereas it was drunk to excess in the Midland counties. As to the dearness of butchers' meat and the scarcity of milk, he would be glad if by any means they could put it in the power of the agricultural labourer to get milk, which would be a much better thing for him than beer. He did not think his hon. Friend would disagree with him in that, because he stated, and very truly, that if anything out of the routine on a farm was to be done a drop of beer was wanted, and this miserable infatuation produced wretchedness, poverty and crime. In his own neighbourhood the agricultural labourers were not a drunken class, but when they did get drunk it was when beer was given them on thrashing days and such occasions. He could not help thinking that the Malt Tax was rather overrated as a check on agriculture. He put the question to Mr. Moore the late Earl of Radnor's land agent, and he said he did not think it interfered at all with the due rotation of crops. He quite agreed with his hon. Friends that the farmer ought to have a privilege with regard to feeding his own stock. Anything that might tend to cheapen butchers' meat or counteract adulteration ought to be encouraged. He should be exceedingly happy if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could hold out any prospect of putting this tax on those gentlemen who were well able to bear it, and if he could transfer it from the early to the latter stage of production.


said, he would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give the agricultural interests the benefit of some portion of the surplus which, according to common rumour, he had at his disposal. The last speaker had stated that £7,000,000, or nearly one-tenth of the whole revenue of the country, was derived from the Malt Tax. That might be true, but the argument that because the produce of this one tax—drawn from one article and from one class—was so large, so therefore it ought to be left untouched and undiminished, was an argument that really told the other way; because it was obviously unjust that so disproportionate a sum should be levied from a single class. He maintained that the demand for the remission of this tax came from the counties where barley was grown rather than from the counties where beer was given in lieu of wages. Still, he would ask whether those farmers who gave good wholesome beer to their labourers did not better serve the cause of morality than those who gave to their men extra wages to spend in the beer house. They must remember that in the busy summer season, when the men were working from three in the morning till ten at night, they really required refreshment. He did not intend I to argue the case as between the brewers and the agriculturists, but the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would probably find but little difficulty in reconciling the brewers to the payment of the extra impost if he would but use that eloquence and adroitness by the aid of which he had succeeded in I persuading so many that they would be gainers by some of his other proposals last year, even though the adoption of this change of levying the tax might involve their paying more than they did before.


said, that as one of those miserable and infatuated creatures, alluded to by his hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Dent), who liked an occasional glass of beer, and as one who took an interest in questions connected with the land, he was heartily glad that his hon. Friend the Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) had brought this question under the consideration of the House, and he trusted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would devote his attention to the taxes upon beer. His right hon. Friend would find the history of those taxes very instructive and profitable, be cause it afforded examples in abundance of almost every financial blunder that could be committed. In the time of the Civil War the King imposed an Excise duty on beer, and the Parliament, determined not to be behind-hand, placed a duty upon each of the ingredients employed in the making of beer. Constitutional Governments subsequently, profiting by the example both of the Royalist and of the Parliamentary party, taxed at once the manufactured article and the ingredients—a policy about as reasonable as the levying by a water company of one rate upon oxygen, another; upon hydrogen, and a third upon water.; Then, as if that was not enough, there were heaped up a licence duty upon the maltster, another upon the brewer, another upon the publican, and Customs duties upon foreign hops, foreign malt, and foreign beer. No less than nine taxes had been imposed upon a single article; and, as if the temporal power had not done enough, the Church stepped in to establish its claim to an extra tithe upon hops. In 1830 the duty upon beer was repealed. Eight years ago the duties upon hops were removed, and amalgamated with the re-constructed brewers' licence; and at present the main tax upon beer was that which was levied upon malt. Such a tax was, of course, open to the objection that it was levied upon the raw material in the earlier stage of manufacture, and, consequently, the beer came to the consumer increased in price, not only by the actual amount of the duty but by the interest which each successive dealer would have to receive upon the money he had so expended. How much was thus added to the actual price was a matter which had been variously estimated. It must certainly be something-considerable, for the duty upon malt was 70 per cent, and the cost of the malt amounted, speaking roundly, to half the the price of the beer. No doubt it might be urged in defence of this mode of collecting the duty that the revenue was more cheaply collected from 6,000 maltsters than it would be from six or seven times that number of public brewers, besides an indefinite number of private ones. That might be a fair argument if the malt duty was really a duty only upon beer. As far as the Exchequer was concerned no doubt it was so, because the Exchequer derived no revenue from any malt except that which was used in the manufacture of beer; but the tax was practically also one upon food. It would not be easy to conceive a more powerful argument against this tax than this—that, while professing to be a tax upon beer alone, it became also a tax upon beef and mutton; and that while it did great injury to the public in that respect, it did not in that shape eon-tribute a fraction to the revenue. He was well aware that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government passed a few years ago a Malt Cattle Feeding Act, but from a variety of circumstances, into which he need not now enter, that Act had remained practically inoperative. It might be said, too, that the utility of malt for the purpose of feeding had been very much exaggerated. It was possible that that might be the case, but he denied that its merits as an article of food for cattle had been fairly tested, nor did he believe that its merits could be fairly tested, because the duty prevented that test being applied. Of course it was possible to try any number of experiments, and by certain farmers, chemists, philosophers, and excisemen experiments had been tried, the result being-invariably in accordance with the theory which the experiment was intended to uphold. But farmers' operations were of such a nature as to extend widely both over space and time. If a farmer was to employ malt in the feeding of his cattle with any benefit to himself, he must not be limited to its employment at any particular season or subject to particular conditions. He should be at liberty to use it when he had a large quantity of malt, when his malt proved unsuitable for the manufacture of beer, or when other crops failed; in fact, to be of advantage, he should be able to fall back upon it whenever it suited his circumstances. So long, therefore, as a duty was levied upon malt, farmers, he believed, could not employ it in a manner that would really be useful to them. Perhaps it might be urged that the grievance was a sentimental one—one that was purely imaginary. But an imaginary grievance—assuming it to be imaginary—if it was not the imaginary grievance of a few crotchety and sentimental individuals, but the imaginary grievance very seriously entertained by a very large, practical, and hard-headed portion of the community, became a very real grievance indeed, and was entitled to fair and careful consideration from a popular Government, even if they could not remove it. Assuming, as the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend did, that beer must, at all events for the present, continue to be taxed, he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he could not devise some means by which the duty upon beer might be levied, not upon the raw material, but somewhere nearer to the point of consumption, and in such a manner as should make it fall only upon the article it was intended to tax. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex, had pointed to a licence duty for that purpose. He confessed, however, that there appeared to him to be a considerable difficulty in the way of levying any very large amounts by means of a licence duty, because, as he apprehended, a licence duty implied the payment of a considerable expenditure in advance by the trader who took it out—a payment made before the trader had any means of ascertaining whether it would be profitable or not. He (Mr. Dodson) was, therefore, disposed to think that it would be difficult to raise any very large amount by means of a licence duty. A beer duty levied as a licence duty would be a licence duty only in name. But if a tax must be levied upon beer he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it could not be levied upon the manufactured article beer itself. The old duty on beer was levied in an awkward and cumbersome manner upon strong beer and small beer. In the case of beer that was exported, no difficulty was found in testing its quality very accurately by ascertaining the amount of malt that it contained. It was possible, he believed, to ascertain to within one-fifth of a bushel the quantity with which the cask had been brewed. In such cases the quantity of malt was often more accurately ascertained than when the exciseman paid his visit of inspection with a view to the charging of the malt duty. It deserved consideration, in his opinion, whether the duty might not in future be charged upon the beer instead of on the malt, the quality of the beer being ascertained by gauging or in some other manner. This was a point on which the exciseman and the brewer might usefully compare notes and ascertain how far such a system was capable of introduction, without unduly interfering with freedom of the brewer's operations. In all the beer-drinking countries, East and West, a duty was in some form, levied upon beer. In Holland, in Belgium, in France, in Austria, and Hanover, and possibly in some other countries in Germany with which he was not acquainted, duty was levied upon the manufactured article. How this was done in other cases he was not prepared to say, but he knew that in Holland and Belgium the duty was assessed by examining the beer in the brewer's vats. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—always supposing that in the course of the next few weeks he was not about to give them an agreeable surprise by doing away with the malt duty altogether—whether it would not be desirable, if he and the Board of Inland Revenue could devise no plan for levying the duty upon the manufactured article, to ascertain what was the practice of foreign countries in this respect. Every year reports were received from Her Majesty's Secretaries of Legation I relating to the countries in which they resided, their trade, manufactures, and i finance. Would it not be a very simple and beneficial proceeding if the Government were to invite those gentlemen to direct their inquiries to this point, and to furnish the Government with precise details and information as to the manner in which the duty on beer was assessed and collected in those countries? He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would really direct his attention to the subject, for of this he felt assured, that whether the injury done to the consumers of beer, or to the producers of barley, was or was not much exaggerated by the persons whom the duty primarily affected, there undoubtedly existed a very strong feeling on the part of such persons that successive Governments had been inclined to treat their complaints rather lightly. The Government, in their opinion, were satisfied with finding that the revenue derived from malt was a very large and a very safe revenue, and being in possession of that large and safe revenue, they had shown themselves indifferent to the feelings and condition of those upon whom the tax pressed most heavily.


said, that as one of those whom the discussion represented in the light of a culprit standing at the bar of public opinion, he wished to offer a few remarks. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) would agree with him that this was not a question between brewers and formers, but as to what was best for the interests of agriculturists and of the country at large. He did not stand up as the advocate of any special interest, for he believed that brewers, like other men, were capable of taking-care of themselves. The proposition of his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Barttelot) was that the duty should be transferred from malt to beer. He (Mr. Greene) had a vivid recollection of the period—forty years ago—when the duty was collected upon beer, and at that time trade was interfered with and trammelled in a manner that none but persons who were engaged in the trade could have any idea of. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had suggested that the quality of the beer should be ascertained from the vat. But a great deal of the beer never entered the vat at all, but went direct from the brewer to the consumer; it would, therefore, amount to an impossibility to levy the tax in that way. As a brewer, he should have no objection to the proposal to place the duty upon beer instead of malt, provided they could show him how the duty could be collected fairly, and the dishonest man prevented from underselling the fair trader. It was inaccurate to say that the present duty on malt did not enhance the price of fine barley. There was a difference of certainly 10 to 15 per cent in the extract value from barley, and consequently a man, paying no more duty for 90 per cent than for 80 per cent, could afford to give several shillings more for fine barley. As to brewing at home, he left that branch of the subject to others; his business lay with supplying the public. No man desired more than he did to see men sober, for in the long run the drunkard was not the brewer's best customer. The curse of drinking he attributed to spirits. The only way in which brewers could recoup themselves for heavy taxation was by supplying a weaker article; and during; the Crimean War, when grain was scarce, the brewers had been obliged to brew weak beer, and that he believed had induced the people to take to spirits. But if the burdens on the brewers were reduced, enabling them to supply a stronger article, spirits would be driven out of the field. He thought it only just to the farmer that he should be allowed to sprout his own barley, and use it for his cattle. But, as a brewer, he was of opinion that if the malt duties were touched at all they ought all to be put an end to, otherwise the trade would be thrown into inextricable confusion.


said, that many years ago his attention was drawn to this subject. He had given his calm and serious attention to the consideration of it. He was, perhaps, the only manufacturer in the North of England who had done so, and the conclusion to which he had come was, that this was a most unjust, unfair, and impolitic tax. What were the facts with regard to it? The farmers of England were now subjected to open competition with the whole world, and yet a tax was levied upon them, amounting to 70 per cent, and it was levied in such a way that they could not crop their land to the best advantage; while it also prevented their using a product of their land for feeding their cattle. The foreigner had not to pay the tax as it was remitted when malt or beer was exported. The evidence taken before the Malt Tax Committee clearly showed that malt was a valuable condiment in the feeding of cattle, and that if the farmers could malt their barley whenever they pleased without the excisemen coming in to supervise the operation—if they could in wet seasons, when barley was sprouting use it for feeding their cattle—the privilege would be of inestimable value to them. There could be no doubt that the tax was levied in such a way as to cause a serious addition to the price of meat, for farmers, instead of using the produce of their own land to feed their cattle were driven to buy other materials which cost more than malt without the tax could cost, and which were not nearly so good. So far as the farmers were concerned, therefore, the tax was a most unjust one. He looked at the subject, however, more with regard to the consumers of beer than the producers of beef and mutton. Being a large employer of labour—his firm employing, when their mills were at full work, 2,000 people—he knew something of the wants of workpeople, and of the evils inflicted upon them by that tax. He was glad to hear the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Dodson) announce that it was a tax of 70 per cent. When he (Mr. Fielden) first took tip that question he found that the advocates of the Malt Tax only made it out to be 30 per cent, whilst other persons in high positions, men occupying responsible posts in the Government, made it out to be 12½ per cent. He had gone very carefully into the matter, and he came to the conclusion that it was a tax of 70 per cent; and if that were so it was a tax that pressed more heavily on a necessary of life than any other tax, and one which they might therefore fairly call upon the Government to remit or to reduce. The Malt Tax was a tax on a raw material. It was levied upon barley on its conversion into malt. The operation of the tax necessarily enhanced the price of barley; for, in order to conform to the regulations of the Excise the maltster had to select a certain class of barley which would produce the result within a certain number of hours. In 1864 he had written a pamphlet upon the subject, in which he took the price of barley to be 31s. per quarter, and if they took this as the average price they would not be far from the mark. The tax upon barley on its conversion into malt was 21s. 8d., and any schoolboy could tell them that 21s. 8d. on 31s. was as near 70 per cent as possible. Mr. Milner Gibson, who was President of the Board of Trade several years ago, stated in that House, on the 14th of April, 1864, that the tax was only 12½ per cent, and he was subsequently confirmed in making that statement by the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government. The same statement with respect to the 12½ per cent was repeated by the newspapers—the so-called "cheap instructors" of the people. First among these, The Times, the influential journal, as it was called, took up the statement that the tax on malt was only 12½ per cent, and sent it all over the world but to show the reliance to be placed on such statements and the candour of the leading journal, although he wrote to The Times and placed the simple calculation, showing that the tax was 70 per cent, on a sheet of note-paper, and signed his name to it, The Times would not insert it. The statement of Mr. Milner Gibson was altogether fallacious, and it was unfair and unmanly—if they might speak of such a thing as manliness in the editor of a newspaper—to reject the communication. The statement was used to compare the duties levied on the imports of foreign products into this country and to show that they were taxed higher than malt. When he saw that statement he was completely astonished, and felt that his honour was at stake, for he had been, about that time, addressing public meetings, and had stated what he believed to be the pressure of the tax; and when a man, in a public position, found that he had made a false statement it concerned his honour toprove his figures. He went more carefully through the figures, and came to the conclusion that he was; right and that Mr. Milner Gibson was vastly wrong. At first he did not well know how to get at the figures, but he applied to his brother-in-law, Mr. Cobbett, who was then a Member of the House, to get them for him. Mr. Cobbett applied to Mr. Hutt, who was then Vice President of the Board of Trade, and he said he would get them in a day or two. In a day or two Mr. Cobbett applied again, when Mr. Hutt said—"I don't know where Gibson got his figures, but they are not at the Board of Trade." Mr. Cobbott then gave Mr. Hutt a paper, which he (Mr. Hutt) subsequently handed to Mr. Milner Gibson with the various articles of which that gentleman had spoken written on it, and opposite to them columns for the price in bond, the amount of duty, and the percentage. Mr. Hutt said that when he did so, Mr. Milnor Gibson looked at the paper and said—"Oh, I can fill these up in a moment," and began filling up the columns with his pencil; but suddenly he stopped—he (Mr. Fielden) supposed he had smelt a rat—paused in his work, and said—"Oh, I must see to this by-and-by." But that by-and-by never came. With the permission of the House he would read the figures as he had arrived at them from other sources, because it was important that the impression should be removed which the statement of Mr. Milner Gibson had made: particularly as the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister had characterized Mr. Gibson's calculation as rigidly just. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Where, and when?] He would inform the right hon. Gentleman where, and when. He would find the words in his Budget speech of 1865. He confessed he was astonished when he read that statement of the right hon. Gentleman, because he had had an interview with him shortly before, when the right hon. Gentleman admitted the principle that a tax levied on the raw material took of necessity more from the pockets of the people than went into the Exchequer. To return to his figures. When he found he could not get them from Mr. Milner Gibson, he applied to the first merchants of the City of London to tell him the price of the various foreign products in bond, and the duty upon them; he extracted the percentages for himself. He would only take the principal articles. He found that the price of tea in bond was then 2s. a pound; the duty was 1s., and the per centage was therefore 50 per cent. Mr. Gibson said it was 80. The per centage on sugar varied from 50 to 55 per cent. Mr. Gibson said it was 60. The duty on Ceylon coffee was 36 per cent. Mr. Gibson was hero under the mark, and said it was 33. The duty on French wines Mr. Gibson said was as high as 122 per cent, while he (Mr. Fielden) found that the duty on claret was only 12 per cent, and the duty on champagne 11 per cent. The duty on port wine Mr. Gibson put at 32; it was really 30. On sherry he said it was 29; it was 19. All these calculations were made by Mr. Gibson to show that malt was less heavily taxed than foreign products, while the fact was that the foreign product then; most heavily taxed was sugar, which was; 55 per cent, while malt was 70. Since then the duties on foreign products had been lowered—the duty on tea was now 25 per cent, sugar 33, coffee 36, claret 12, and champagne, the rich man's beverage, which ought to be taxed most heavily of all beverages, was only 5 per; cent. If they held that a tax on intoxicating drinks was a proper mode of procuring revenue, let them act honestly and begin by taxing the beverages which the Members of that House indulged in, and tax them at least as heavily as the poor man's drink. But that was not all. The tax on malt was a tax on the raw material, and, as the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government admitted, it was a tax that went on increasing, and the consumer paid more than went into the Exchequer. The maltster paid the tax in the first instance, but he charged for it, upon the sale of his commodity, interest and profit. The tax, for instance, was 21s. 8d. per bushel. But as the maltster paid the tax, he had to charge interest and profit upon this advance of capital, as he did on other capital invested in his trade. If they took the interest on capital at 5 per cent, and profit at 10 per cent, they would not be very wide of the mark, and the account would be as follows:—

s. d.
Amount of tax 21 8
Maltster's charge on the tax, for interest and profit, 15 per cent 3 3
Tax charged by the maltster 24 11
Brewer's charges on the tax, 15 per cent 3 9
Tax charged by the public brewer 28 8
Retailer's charge on the tax, 10 per cent 2 10
Tax charged to the consumer by the retailer 31 6
The House would see that he only allowed 10 per cent to the retailer for profit, as he generally worked with the brewer's capital, receiving payment over the counter before he paid the brewer. While, therefore, the revenue received 21s. 8d. on every quarter of malt, the consumer had to pay, in consequence of the way in which the tax was levied and fur the interest and profits on the tax charged by the three great monopolists, the maltsters, public brewers, and retailers of beer, 31s. 6d. as the cost of the tax on every quarter of malt consumed. If that was not a bad tax he did not know what was. He would quote the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the impolicy of levying a tax on a raw material. On April 8, 1869, the right hon. Gentleman said, in that louse— Then it (the duty on corn) is a tax levied on the raw material in its rawest state, and this shilling has to bear its profit through the hands of the corn-dealer and the retailer, and in the loaf of the baker. In every way, in fact, it violates the principle of political economy. He wished now to say a few words on the past history of this tax. It had come with a cruel pressure upon those honest, hardworking people who brewed, or would brew, their own beer. He should be told that there was no such thing as cottage brewing now-a-days. Perhaps the statement he had to make would take the House by surprise. But, at all events, home brewing did, prevail at one time all over England, and the result of the discontinuance of that practice had been to create much of the wretchedness and misery and drunkenness existing in this country. Cobbett tells us that— Mr. Ellman stated to a Committee of the House of Commons in 1821 that forty-five years before that, when he became a farmer, every labourer in his parish of Glynde, where he lived,
TOWNSHIP. PARISH. Total Families. Brew at Home. Would brew, but cannot afford. Buy Beer Do not drink Beer.
Elland Halifax 1419 1237 51 73 58
Hipper-holme-cum-Brighouse Ditto 1737 1301 141 157 138
Quarmby-cum-Linley Huddersfield 987 784 84 71 48
Idle Calverly 2231 1643 220 106 262
Langfield Halifax 876 610 46 48 172
Middle Third of Stansfield Ditto 798 591 54 49 104
Todmorden and Walsden Rochdale 1774 1293 139 93 249
9822 7459 735 597 1031
brewed his own beer, and drank it by his own fireside. Forty-five years back from 1821 takes us to 1776. At that time there was no tax on malt if made by persons for their own consumption. In the year 1783 this permission ceased."—[Political Register, vol. 87, p. 720.] The effect of the change might be seen by the following figures:—In 1713, when the population of England and Wales was 5,000,000, and the duty 6d. a bushel, with the above exception, the number of bushels on which duty was paid was 30,000,000. That was 6 bushels per head. In 1864, when the population of the United Kingdom was 30,000,000, and the duty 2s. 8d. a bushel, the consumption was 45,000,000 bushels, or at the rate of 1½ bushels per head. So that while on every hand we were discussing the drunkenness of the labouring population, it appeared that the consumption of malt was not nearly so large per head as in 1713. The explanation was, that the high price of beer, caused by the Malt Tax, led to adulteration and to the drinking of ardent spirits, also vilely adulterated, and this it was which led to the curse of drunkenness. If the Malt Tax were repealed a glass of pure beer could be bought for a penny. This would be a great boon to the labouring people, and especially the agricultural labourers, and the consumption of ardent spirits would decrease. But he wished to show the House that the practice of cottage brewing still existed in the North of England. In the years 1865 and 1866 he had employed a person, in whom he had every confidence, to make a regular house to house visitation in several townships in the neighbourhood of the towns of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, and Bradford, and in the vale of Todmorden. He visited 9,822 families; and the following statement showed the extent to which private brewing is practised in the following townships:— Therefore, so far as the inquiry went, the tax operated with hardship upon 84 per cent of the population, and those the best class of working men; for the House might depend upon it that the man who got his wife to brew at home would not go I to the pot-house to drink the vile concoctions sold there. Those who could not afford to brew at home were induced to frequent the public-house, where one glass led to two, and more. If we could resuscitate the practice of cottage brewing we should do more to cure drunkenness than all the efforts of temperance associations. The quantity of malt brewed by these cottagers was remark ably small. It seldom exceeded one-eighth of a bushel, or five pounds. It was brewed every week or fortnight, as the case might be, and the housewife attended to it as she went about her other domestic duties. The process of cottage brewing was a most simple one, and its cost was literally nothing but the price of the malt and hops, because the cottager's fire would have to be kept up in any ease, and any extra fuel that might be required in brewing was paid for by the sale of the grains. That was the way in which the operation of cottage brewing was performed. It was most beneficial in its results, and a wholesome and refreshing beverage was produced. He would now come to the question raised by his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Barttelot) as to a substitute for the Malt Tax. He approached the question reluctantly, because he believed that pure beer was the natural beverage of the country, sent by a wise and beneficiate Creator for their use, and that the Malt Tax was a bad tax, and one that ought to be altogether abolished. But he knew the difficulty in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was placed—that the right; hon. Gentleman would have calls upon whatever surplus he had from various interests in the country, each thinking its claims paramount; under these circumstances he (Mr. Fielden) had turned his attention to the question of a substitute for the tax. There could be no worse tax than a tax on the raw material, and if they could get rid of the interest and profit paid by the taxpayer to the maltster and brewer it would be a great benefit to the consumer. What suggested itself to his mind was to increase the amount of licence duty now paid by the public brewers and sweep away the Malt Tax altogether. Such a change would remove the injustice now felt by the farmer, who, while he had to compete with all the world was prevented from carrying on his business as he thought best. It would, moreover, reduce the price of beer very considerably, because it would get rid of those charges which were the necessary result of a tax laid upon the raw material. He could not tell at what rate the brewers could sell their beer after the repeal of the Malt Tax, because he did not know the cost of brewing by public brewers; but he thought a pretty correct conclusion could be arrived at in this manner—In the Committee on the Malt Tax, Mr. Allsopp was asked this question—3346. "You think the public brewer can deliver beer cheaper than the private brewer or the cottage brewer can brew for himself? The reply was—"I am sure we can; and we do, and send it all over Wales, and Scotland, and Ireland, and England. Our trade is enormously increasing. That is the best roof of it." Now, let them see what the cottage brewers could brew for. They brewed an eighth part of a bushel at a time. The Malt Tax increased the price of malt fully 100 per; cent, for it was proved before the Malt Tax Committee that if the tax were repealed malt could be sold at the same price as barley, as the cost of malting was paid by the increase in bulk. They now paid 8s. a bushel for malt. One-eighth of that was 1s. They used one ounce of hops, and the total cost was 1s. 1d. From this they could brew seven quarts of beer, being at the rate of 2d. per quart. Now, if there were no Malt Tax, malt would be sold at £1 12s. a bushel, and the eighth of a bushel of malt would come to 6d., the ounce of hops to 1d., and thus for 7d. they could get seven quarts of beer, or at the rate of 1d. per quart. That was, perhaps, weaker beer than would be ordinarily brewed; but he had had brewed at his own home beer as good as that of either Bass or Allsopp, which would cost, if there were no tax, 1½d. per quart. If therefore Mr. Allsopp was correct in saying he could brew cheaper than the private brewer, it was clear Mr. Allsopp could deliver to him beer of equal quality to that at 1½d. per quart. Mr. Allsopp told the Committee that he allowed 40 per cent for retailing; but, allowing ¾d. per quart for retailing, they would get 2d. per quart as the cost at which beer could be sold over the counter if there were no Malt Tax. Mr. Milner Gibson said the Malt Tax was only ½d. per quart. If, then, they substituted a brewer's licence for the Malt Tax they would have beer sold over the counter, according to the statement of Mr. Allsopp, for 2½d. per quart. But what was the price now? The price of the vilest stuff in the lowest pot-house was 6d. per quart. In a refreshment room 3d. per glass was charged, which was at the rate of 1s. per quart. But faking it at 6d. per quart, there was according to the statements of Mr. Allsopp and Mr. Milner Gibson, a charge of 3½d. a quart on the consumer, in consequence of the mode in which the tax was levied, over and above what went into the Exchequer. He would now come to the question as to the result of the change upon the revenue. He did not agree with the hon. Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) in his suggestion to tax private brewers, because he thought the habit of cottage brewing ought to be encouraged. The quantity of bushels of malt consumed by the public brewers in the year ending 1868 was 48,000,000 bushels—that was the quantity on which, they paid the licence duty instead of the hop duty. If they took that at 6s. a barrel, and included the licence duty paid in lieu of the hop duly, it would bring in a revenue of £7,200,000. The revenue this year was not equal to that amount, and therefore the Exchequer would not suffer at all by the change. But, more than that, they ought to take into account the enormous increase in consumption that would take place from a reduction in price. He now came to the argument of certain persons that it would be a bad tiling to increase the consumption of beer in this country, It was laid down by them that beer and all intoxicating liquors were injurious. Now, he believed that good beer was necessary for the vigorous life of the healthy labourer. He invited the teetotaller, who certainly could never succeed in inducing the people to adopt his impracticable views, to join him in the object they had both at heart—namely, to make the people a sober and industrious people. He believed that could be done to a great extent by reducing the price of beer, so as to bring it within the reach of every labourer. But care must be taken to have the beer pure. We found that in other countries labourers drank intoxicating drinks, and that there was none of that drunkenness and misery there which we saw in this country. He would take the case of Bavaria, where beer was consumed in enormous quantities; but there no one ever saw what might be called "a beastly drunken fellow." The Government of that country was a paternal one, and it would be better if the Government of this country became in this respect an equally paternal one. The beer brewed in Bavaria was of one uniform quality, the price was fixed by the Government according to the price of hops, and official beer-tasters went round to prevent adulteration. If they found any beer that was not pure and wholesome they pulled the plug out of the vessel and let the beer flow away. That was the penalty on the person who had adulterated it. He had received a letter from a friend, a Manchester merchant, who was travelling in Bavaria, informing him that although he was not a beer drinker in this country, he scarcely drank anything else in Bavaria, the beverage being so deliriously pure and cool. The tax there amounted to only 10d. on sixteen gallons, or ¾d. per gallon, and the beer was sold at 2d. per quart in summer, and 1½d. in winter. In conclusion he believed that if the Malt Tax was taken off, and the labourer could procure pure, wholesome, and cheap beer, an immense amount of comfort, contentment, and happiness would be brought home to many a hearth.


Sir, I do not propose to detain the House by entering at all into the merits of the Malt Tax. It has been my duty on former occasions; to state my views on the subject, and I have seen no reason to change them; but I am desirous of correcting an error into which the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has twice fallen. The hon. Gentleman told the House that Mr. Milner Gibson having stated that the result of the malt duty was to impose upon beer a tax of 12½ per cent, that statement was adopted by me. I took no notice of the allegation when the hon. Gentleman first made it; but when he spoke about the honour of a man being pledged to calculations made by him, and recreated that my honour was pledged, was obliged to ask him when and where I made the statement he attributed to me. On referring to the speech from which the hon. Gentleman made his quotation, I found that the source of his error was that he had adopted the dangerous practice of stopping in the middle of a sentence. What I said was this— My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade stated that the Malt Duty imposed upon beer a tax of 12½ per cent, and I am able to say two things—first of all, that I believe that that statement of my right hon. Friend was a rigidly just one in every sense of the word for the purpose with a view to which he used it—namely, for the purpose of comparison with the duty now imposed by law upon tea; and, secondly, that very high authorities connected with the trade—men intimately conversant with the brewing trade—have, upon being applied to, given the very figure that was mentioned by my right hon. Friend."—[3 Hansard, clxxxviii. 1111.] I then proceeded to say it might be more proper that I should "take it on the barrel of beer." that being the fairway, as it appeared to me, for the purpose of comparing the burden of this duty with the burden of the tea duty on the chest and half-chest of tea. I afterwards said— I am prepared to allow that the taxation upon beer as sold in barrel, of which all but 1, or perhaps 2 per cent, is the Malt Duty, may, for the sake of argument, be taken on a liberal estimate as high as 20 per cent. The hon. Gentleman who has laid down such rigid rules about our honour will see, therefore, that my estimate was not 12½, but 18 or 19 per cent. The hon. Member ought not, binding a Minister to statements made five years ago, to have quoted thorn inaccurately. But I protest against the idea that our honour is involved in the accuracy of calculations such as these. A man's honour is in volved in the good faith of his calculations, but not in their result. I think the hon. Gentleman himself should give his ready acquiescence to the sound doctrine I have just laid down, for what I was his calculation? His deduction was that the Malt Tax was 100 per cent, and he arrived at it in this way. The price of barley is 32s. and the price of malt 64s., and 64 being twice 32, ergo the I Malt Tax is half the whole price—allowing nothing whatever for the cost of converting barley into malt. The hon. Gentleman at the end of his speech showed that the cost of the Malt Tax was ½d. on the quart of beer, or 1s. 2d. a gallon; and running up that computation on the number of gallons consumed, I find that the cost of the Malt Tax to the consumer, according to the calculation of the hon. Gentleman, which he says has been made so carefully, is £52,500,000. The hon. Gentleman certainly has a rival in those rather singular statements, for I recollect that the hon. and gallant Colonel (Colonel Barttelot) was preceded by a learned Gentleman on former occasions who estimated that the tax to the consumer was £60,000,000 a year. I do not wish, in the slightest degree, to interfere with the hon. Member's elaborate computations, whatever result he may arive at. I do not mean to impeach the good faith of the hon. Gentleman, of which I have no doubt; but I would advise him to quote with accuracy, and not to hold to a doctrine that the honour of Gentlemen is involved in the calculations they may make.


I shall detain the House for only a short time. I think that those of us who are familiar with the oratory and literature of the Malt Tax must feel pleased at the fairness and moderation with which this discussion has been conducted. Comparing the arguments used this evening with those which we heard on former occasions, we have every reason to congratulate ourselves. No case could be more fairly stated than this has been by the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot). I have the agreeable feeling of being-able to agree with many of the arguments which have been adduced by those who support the hon. and gallant Member; and I do not mean to use the arguments which some Gentlemen have supposed I would use. I do not mean to strain matters. I quite agree with Gentlemen opposite in this general principle—that to tax a commodity in the early stage of its manufacture is wasteful, because there must be interest on the capital advanced, and probably a profit charged upon it too, so that much more is taken out of the pockets of the taxpayer than ever reaches the coffers of the Government. There is also another objection to taxing a half-raw material—namely, that you assume that it will be manufactured in a particular way. This, of course, has a tendency to fetter persons in their efforts to bring about improvements in the manufacture. That is quite manifest, and it is no part of my duty to deny it; but the process in the case of the Malt Tax has not been adopted from more love of a certain course which is not in accordance with the principles of political economy. There are other considerations to which we must have regard when dealing with a matter of this kind. We know that at one time there was a beer tax as well as a malt tax; but the former was found to be so inconvenient and unfair, that by almost unanimous consent it was abolished in 1830. The Malt Tax remained, and such a tax has this great advantage—that when you deal with a commodity before it is fully made—when you take it at an early stage of its manufacture—you can calculate the tax with greater case and with less danger of fraud. The process is something like what is done when a bridge is thrown across a stream before it divides itself into many channels. To deal with 9,000 maltsters is more convenient than to deal with 30,000 or 40,000 brewers. I will not go into the question of the reduction of the tax. The question before us to-night, and to which I will scrupulously confine myself, is the manner of its collection. We have had throe suggestions made to us to-night, and I will take them in their order. The present way of collecting the tax begins at the earliest moment with the manufacture of malt. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmund's (Mr. Greene) has suggested that instead of taking the tax on the manufacture in the hands of the maltster, we should go a step further, and take it when it passes into the hands of the brewer. With submission to the hon. Gentleman, who has a great practical knowledge of the subject, it appears to me that this would be no improvement whatever, because it would still have the evil of taxing the raw material, and all the difference would be that, instead of taking the tax on malt in the hands of 9,000 maltsters, you will tax it in the hands of 33,000 brewers, and by that means increase very much the labour, and, consequently, the expense of collection, without, as I understand, any corresponding advantage to the public. The next suggestion is that of my hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Dodson), and anything coming from him is entitled to great attention. He suggests something not very far from a return to the beer tax which was done away in 1830, and recommends that we should tax beer instead of malt in the hands of the brewers, and apply tests to it to ascertain its specific gravity, and that, then the beer should, be taxed according to the strength it might possess. Such a method of taxation would be immensely laborious, and you would have the same difficulty as before. You would have got rid of the objection that you are taxing the raw material, which would be an advantage; but, on the other hand, you would not only have to tax it in the hands of the brewers, a more numerous class—and there are many of them in a small way, and making small quantities—but you would have besides to tax it by a course of experimental investigation, which would be infinitely vexatious, expensive, and laborious. Instead of going to the fountain head, and finding how much malt goes out to the brewer, you will omit to ascertain the amount when it is in the hands of the maltsters, and you will wait until it gets into the hands of the brewer and into the form of beer, and then, by a sort of analytical test, you are to ascertain by some chemical or other process how much malt might have gone into the hands of the brewer in order to make that beer. I think it would be better to go to the maltster at once. The third plan is that of the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot), who has brought the question forward. That plan has, in some degree, the merit of novelty. I am not aware that such a plan has ever been proposed before; and I cannot help thinking that it has its origin in something that was said at a deputation of some gentlemen who honoured me by bringing the matter before me the other day. Perhaps it was something said by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass), who objected, as he was very well entitled to do, to the licence duty levied on brewers at this moment. When it was suggested by me that he could recoup himself from the consumer, the hon. Gentleman said, "No, the duty is too small—only 3d. a barrel." It seems that the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex, much meditating upon that answer, might have said to himself—"If that be the only fault, that the duty is too small, we can soon remove that objection." In fact, it seems to me that the hon. Member for Derby and the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite have taken the two well-known lines of the parody, the hon. Member for Derby saying the first, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the second. The first line was— The tax is great because it is so small, —to which the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex would answer— Increase it and it will not hurt at all. That is a very original way of treating the case, and I am bound to say it is totally new to me, and as being new I am quite willing to give it my best consideration. It is quite true that the grievance complained of by the hon. Member for Derby, that it is only 3d. a barrel, is a remediable one. It could be removed to any extent whatever by the sum of 5s. 8d., or any other sum that would be a proper amount. I have made a calculation in my own mind that, if the grievance were thoroughly remedied according to the plan suggested by the hon. Member for West Sussex, the hon. Member for Derby would probably have to pay about £170,000 a year. Speaking seriously, of course this question, as raised by the hon. Gentleman with his great knowledge of the subject, is one which I cannot refuse to consider. At the same time, it strikes me that there are difficulties to be got over besides the very large sum to be collected from individuals. One of these is, as it seems to me, that we must put aside the view taken by the hon. Member for East Sussex, and leave out of the ease altogether the question of the quality of the beer. I do not see how you can levy this tax on the beer in the hands of the brewer, and no one but the brewer to bear it. It would be impossible to go into a test of every barrel, and there would be this inconvenience among others, that you would have to tax the lowest quality of beer above table-beer and the highest quality at exactly the same amount. The question, I admit, is not one to be dismissed without consideration, and I will undertake most carefully to consider it, and when I come to make my Financial Statement I will either accede to it or give very good reasons for not doing so. That is only due to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for the moderation and fairness with which he has brought the question forward, and I hope that, under these circumstances, the hon. Gentleman will not think it necessary to press his Motion. The time is not very remote when I must make a clean breast of it.


said, he wished to remark, with reference to the observation of the First Lord of the Treasury, that his hon. Friend (Mr. Fielden) had said the tax was 70 per cent on the price of barley, and 100 per cent to the consumer. A tax of 21s. upon 32s., the price of barley, was match nearer 70 than 20 per cent. The tax created a monopoly, for it was notorious that its operation was to render the employment of large capital necessary in brewing, and large capitals were confined to few hands.


said, he was surprised that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Newdegate) should state the tax at so high an amount. It was very high, indeed, and he had for more than twenty years endeavoured to reduce it; but to place it at 100 per cent was so extravagant that it placed anyone who made that statement in the wrong. The hon. Member had just now spoken of the brewing trade as a monopoly; but how could it be a monopoly when there were 33,000 competitors? Taking a personal view, he only wished there was some little monopoly in the trade. On public grounds, however, he was averse from monopoly. He wanted free trade, pure and simple. Twenty-one years ago he asked leave to introduce a Bill to reduce the Malt Tax by one-half. That measure then met with very little support from hon. Gentlemen opposite connected with the agricultural interest. He still thought the malt duty ought to be reduced, and he should be glad to see it altogether abolished; but, looking to the fact that £22,000,000 or £23,000,000 a year were raised by the taxes on beer, wines, and spirits, he did not see how it could be spared, because, if they reduced the impost on beer, they must reduce the taxes on wines and spirits. The hon. Gentleman opposite proposed to increase his licence duty from £9,000 or £10,000 to £190,000 or £200,000 a year. Well, he believed he should have no difficulty in distributing that among his customers. No doubt there were grave and serious objections to the collection of the tax on beer, and the pre-; sent plan of taxing it in the first instance; on malt was the truest and most practical mode of taxation. A great deal had been said about the brewing of beer by labourers. Now, he had lived a good deal in the country, and had never known a single instance of cottage brewing; and why? The labourers in his neighbourhood, in consequence of the great extent of brewing operations, were very largely employed in brewing, and they were well aware that brewing in a tea-pot with a pint of water, as had been described, was the most wasteful outlay that could be conceived. It would be an utter waste of time and money for cottagers to brew their own beer, because in nineteen cases out of twenty it would be quite unfit to drink. Some notice had been taken of brewers licences, and he hoped that he should be allowed to make a few remarks upon that subject. He regarded those licences as most unjust, because no other trade was subject to them. It was most unfair to select a certain body of traders, and to impose upon them a licence duty of from £10 to £10,000 per annum, more especially when that very body already contributed to the revenue by way of duties from £3,000,000 to £6,000,000 per annum. He was sure that when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced his Budget he would be able to find no argument in favour of retaining those licences. When the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, first instituted them, he told the House that he only desired to obtain by their means a sum equivalent to the £300,000 per annum that he had up to that time received from the hop duties. The private brewers were exempt. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, obtained £410,000 from these licences, and therefore plundered the brewers of a sum amounting to 30 per cent on the sum which it was originally intended they should pay.


said, he was perfectly satisfied with the answer he had received from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In fact, it was a more courteous answer than he ever got before. He would therefore withdraw his Amendment upon the Motion for going into Supply.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.