§ MR. O'SULLIVAN,
in rising to call the attention of the House to the practice which is sanctioned by Her Majesty's Government of blending and thereby adulterating Irish Whiskey in Her Majesty's Customs and Inland Revenue Stores, and to move—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the practice which has been permitted of late years of mixing Whiskey in Her Majesty's Bonding and Inland Revenue Stores with other spirits; to report to this House whether the practice is injurious to the public and to the manufacturers of Irish Whiskey, and whether, in the opinion of the Committee, the practice ought or ought not to be discontinued,said, he felt he laboured under some difficulty in introducing this subject to the House, as the very mention of the word "whiskey" was sufficient to provoke a smile in the case of most hon. Gentlemen. He would commence by informing the House that he did not rise in the interest of the distiller; neither did he rise in the interest of the whiskey-drinker, as there was not a man in that Assembly, not even excepting the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, who despised the habitual drunkard more than he did; he rose simply in the interest of the public, and with a strong love of justice and fair play. For a long time before he became a Member of that House he saw with regret how the distilling trade in Ireland was being undermined, and its good name destroyed by a practice which was carried on extensively in Dublin and 1186 Belfast—that was, of mixing a cheap spirit made by Coffer's "patent still" with some Irish whiskey, and then sending the mixture out for consumption as pure Irish whiskey. This practice was connived at by the Government of the country, and consequently was daily increasing in extent. His first effort to stop this fraudulent practice was made in June, 1874, when he asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer—If it is a fact that spirits imported from other countries into Ireland are allowed to be mixed with Irish whiskey in Her Majesty's Custom House, under the sanction of the Custom House Officers; and, if so, whether Her Majesty's Government, with a view of doing justice to the manufacturers and consumers of pure whiskey, will take such measures as may be necessary to prevent the continuance of such a system of trade?He would read to the House the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to his Question. Here was the statement—It is illegal to mix spirits imported from foreign countries into Ireland with Irish whiskey in bond; but it is legal to mix spirits imported from one part of the United Kingdom into the other, and therefore spirits imported from England and Scotland into Ireland are occasionally mixed in bond. There is no desire on the part of the officers of the Revenue that that practice should continue, and, as far as they are concerned, they will be willing that every cask of spirits should be taken out of bond exactly as it was put in bond; but it would be a great inconvenience to the dealer if a rule to that effect were rigidly enforced, and there was therefore no intention to discontinue, or rather to prohibit the present practice; but when the spirits were so mixed, care was taken that the name of the distiller should be erased, and on each cask was impressed the word 'mixed' or 'blended,' to show that the spirit was not pure."—[3 Hansard, ccxix. 1268–9.]Was that a reply worthy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of a great commercial nation? "'Blended' was substituted to show that the spirits were not pure." Then, again, he told the House that mixing was not permitted in the case of foreign spirits. He (Mr. O'Sullivan) was well aware it was not permitted in the case of foreign spirits. Foreigners had their Governments to protect them from such fraud; but the Irishman should depend on the Government of England for protection. The right hon. Gentleman had further stated that there was no desire on the part of the officers of the Revenue that this practice should be discontinued. In these 1187 few words the whole secret of this transaction lay, for the guiding star at the Revenue Department did not wish this fraud on the Irish manufacturer to be discontinued, but rather that it should continue until the trade of the Irish manufacturer was gone and his good name destroyed. He gave full credit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a desire to have justice done to the Irish manufacturer; but he seemed to have been completely overruled by the authorities at Somerset House, the heads of which, when called on by the Lords of the Treasury to simply report on the subject of mixing whiskey, actually went out of their way to become the advocates of the Scotch manufacturer of silent spirits, and to traduce the character of the Irish distillers by making statements in their Report which were calculated to injure the Irish trade, and which they could not sustain when they were publicly challenged to do so. In the same reply the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it would be inconvenient to traders if the practice were stopped, and it might be urged that trade was unduly restricted. Well, he thought the very best answer he could give to that portion of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was to refer the House to 122 Petitions, which had been presented to the House since the opening of the present Session, and which had been signed by 1,987 dealers, merchants, and retailers of spirits in Ireland, praying the Government to prevent the system of mixing spirits in Her Majesty's bonding stores. He believed that the stopping of this practice would be no inconvenience to the large number of fair traders; but that it would be a great inconvenience to 15 or 20 traders who were making a fortune in. this manner at the expense of the public. Some time after the Chancellor of the Exchequer refused to stop this mixing he received a letter from one of those Dublin blenders, who said that this blending was sanctioned by Act of Parliament, and wound up by enclosing his trade circular to the Chancellor, who thanked the writer for his information on the subject. He would not have troubled the House with this blender's letter, were it not that he wanted to show how the public were deceived by the protection which the Government gave to this fraudulent practice. Shortly after this letter was 1188 written he found an advertisement from the writer in The Wine Trade Review, headed "Dublin Whiskey," advertizing his bottled whiskey, and saying—"As this whiskey is bottled under the supervision of the officers of Her Majesty's Revenue, the trade have an absolute guarantee of its being pure unblended Dublin whiskey." Could anything be plainer than that, when it was a well-known fact that the Government permitted all sorts of mixing to be carried on under the supervision of the Revenue officer? This blender told the public that the trade had an absolute guarantee that it was not blended, because it was bottled under the supervision of Her Majesty's Revenue officers. Some men thought they were patriots when they could ascend a platform and make a long speech; but give him the patriot who would try to protect the trade and the interest of his country even at a little loss to himself. Pope told them that—Wretches hang that jurymen may dine.He could parallel it with one for the special behoof of a few Irishmen in this case, and say—"Let trade and country perish that individuals may accumulate wealth." The next move made in this matter was on the 19th of April, 1875, when he moved an Amendment in Committee on the Sale of Food and Drugs Bill—That no person shall be permitted to mix, colour, or stain any food while in Her Majesty's Custom House Stores.After some discussion on this Amendment, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said this clause to prevent the mixing of whiskey in bond went beyond the scope of the Bill. At the same time, he suggested that he (Mr. O'Sullivan) should make an appointment to meet him, together with the practical officers of the Customs. On the strength of that proposition he withdrew his Amendment, and a day was then named, and the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Brooks), himself, and some Irish distillers, met the Chancellor of the Exchequer at his official residence. The distillers laid their case before him, and showed the injustice that was done to them by having an inferior article substituted for theirs. They even went so far as to say they would be satisfied if the following rules were carried out by the officers of the Inland Revenue:— 1189 That the word "blended" be painted on each cask containing mixed whiskey, and that the Government permit which accompanied the whiskey so mixed should clearly state that it was mixed whiskey, so that the purchaser should know what he was buying, and be protected from fraud. He was sure the House could agree with him in saying this was not too much to expect from the Government, who were trying to protect the public by passing a Food and Drug Bill, who had passed a Bill for the protection of trade marks, and who had passed a very elaborate Bill for sanitary purposes. This letter was referred to the heads of the Inland Revenue Department, from which emanated the famous Report to which he would have to refer by-and-by. Immediately after the interview between his deputation and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a deputation of Scotch gentlemen waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the purpose of protesting against any change in the law with regard to the blending of whiskey in bond, or branding of casks. They were introduced by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson). When his hon. Friend was introducing this deputation, he was reported by the papers to have made some extraordinary remarks on the subject. He was reported to have said that—"The duty of Government was a purely fiscal one—namely, the collection of Revenue arising from the sale of spirits." Did the hon. Member mean to convey that the Government owed no moral obligation to the people? that they were to be simply machines for the collection of taxes? Did he think for a moment that they were not morally bound to protect the lives, the health, and the sanity of the people? All he would say was, that if this was the hon. Gentleman's standard of moral law, he hoped he would keep it at the other side of the Border. Again, he would ask the hon. Member, did he not see the very inconsistent position occupied by himself and his Scotch friends on the occasion referred to? They were all aware that Scotland was celebrated for its herrings, and, he believed, justly so. Hon. Members must also be well aware how Scotchmen had continued to importune the Government every other day, until they got the Government to brand their herrings, so that no one in 1190 the Kingdom could impose on the consumer by saying he had Scotch herrings when that was not the case. And now these Scotchmen cried out to the Government—"Don't brand our whiskey," or, in other words, "If you do we can't sell it as Irish whiskey." A very able article appeared in The Times on this question in the early part of this year, but the writer fell into an error in this respect—that he seemed to make it appear that Dublin was the only part of Ireland in which pure pot whiskey was manufactured, when the fact was, that it was manufactured in many towns in Ireland. There was Cork, for instance, where the Cork Distilleries Company paid, he believed, over £500,000 a-year to the Revenue; and that from one company in Ireland would give some idea of the trade that was done. They—the Cork Distilleries Company—did not take much interest in the matter, for this reason—that, to the credit of the Cork merchants be it said, this fraudulent practice was almost unknown there. There was a very smart paper in Scotland called The Scotsman, which was furious with The Times for helping to expose this fraud on the public. In an article—on the7th February, 1876—in defence of the existing system, that paper made use of two extraordinary statements. First, it said that a number of the Irish distillers were Scotchmen, and that it was simply a case of Scotchmen outwitting Scotchmen. He (Mr. O'Sullivan) was not aware, so far as he could learn, that there were more than one or two Scotchmen engaged in the distilling trade in Ireland; but supposing, for argument's sake, that every one of them was a Scotchman, that was no reason why they should be allowed to deceive the public and destroy fair trade. The second argument used by this paper was still more curious. It stated that the fraud—if it was a fraud—was practised chiefly on Irishmen, who were incapable of telling the difference between good and bad whiskey. All he would say to this latter argument was, that though the writer might be a good judge of Scotch toddy, he was a very bad judge of an Irishman's opinion. The same paper, in the same article, stated that "in Scotland no whiskey is called Irish, for that name would not be regarded as commendatory in Scotland." He (Mr. O'Sullivan) held 1191 in his hand a circular from which he would read an extract. Let the House then judge whether The Scotsman was correct or not.Sir,—My principals having just completed very important alterations and improvements in their pot-stills, are now running a most superior old still whiskey (Irish)"—the word "Irish" within parenthesis, to draw special attention to their Irish manufacture. The part of Ireland this circular came from was Cameron Bridge. It reminded him of a case he saw some time since in London, where some enterprising gentlemen advertised champagne of their own manufacture, at half the price of that which came from the champagne-growing country, and far superior. After a short time they were taken up and prosecuted, but this Scotch-Irish whiskey was still manufactured. He would have to trouble the House with a few extracts from the famous Report from the Inland Revenue, Somerset House. The authors of that Report commenced by admitting the fact that there was a considerable amount of blending of Scotch with Irish spirits, and they then tried to excuse it by stating that certain Scotch distillers made a very colourless and flavourless spirit, which for those qualities was well adapted for mixing with other spirituous liquors. Then those disinterested gentlemen went on to say—They presumed that the mixture of this with Irish spirits made a palatable compound; otherwise it would certainly not be the interest of the dealers in spirits to encourage it.Any man who ever drank Irish whiskey in London must know the palatable compound they would get in half the places in that city; in fact, the people of that city seemed to know very little about pure Irish whiskey, or they would not drink the stuff they got for whiskey. He was sure that was the reason those blenders were able to deceive them. The Inland Revenue thought it was because it was more palatable that those dealers in whiskey continued to sell it; but they must have forgotten at the time of writing this Report that one of the blenders himself admitted in his letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this compound which they thought was so very palatable was 2s. per gallon cheaper than pure Irish whiskey. He thought this had more influence with 1192 the large dealer than its palatable qualities. The Report went on to say—The allegation which is sometimes made that it is deleterious is quite unfounded; indeed, it is the very opposite of the fact, it being notorious that the Irish whiskey owes a great part of its peculiar flavour to the fusel oil which it contains, and from which impurity the Scotch silent spirit is nearly free.Was not that going out of their way to traduce the Irish manufacturer and advocate the interest of the maker of silent spirit, and more especially in making statements which they could not sustain when challenged in the public Press to do so? The writer of those statements, who, he presumed, was Mr. Sandy Young, of the Inland Revenue Office, shrank from the contest when he was publicly challenged to prove his assertions. The Inland Revenue gentlemen wound up their famous Report by stating that it was quite open to Parliament to protect them—the distillers—against their rivals in trade, provided the Revenue officers were not called on to give effect to it. The Irish distillers wanted no protection from fair competition; but they wanted to protect both their purse and their name from being undermined by fraudulent practices. The House could see from the outset the line of argument taken by the writer of that Report. He would now state to the House in a few words what he complained of. The Government placed officers in charge of all whiskey when it was made, and while in their charge in the Government stores, they allowed those blenders, who made a trade of this business, to bring into Her Majesty's Customs the cheapest spirits they could get, and there, in presence of the Custom House officers, they were allowed to mix pure whiskey with this cheap spirit, and send it out for consumption as pure Irish whiskey. Would any hon. Member deny that this was fraud of the grossest kind, and were not the Government of this country co-operators in this fraud? Was it not bad enough to have it "doctored" by the merchant and by the retailer before it reached the consumer, without having the practice carried on in the Government stores? The Government gained nothing whatever by permitting this practice; on the contrary, they lost by it, as they had to employ additional officers to watch those blenders. He would now give the House 1193 the contents of one or two of those huge "doctoring shops," called vats, in Her Majesty's stores. He held a Return of the contents of several of those huge blending vats, but he did not intend to occupy the time of the House with more than the Return of one or two from Belfast, and the same from Dublin. The first he would take was a Return from the Dublin Customs in December, 1875. No. 3,634 contained 6,794 gallons, and was made up of 4,610 gallons of patent silent spirit, and 2,184 gallons of Irish whiskey. The next vat, which contained 8,206 gallons, was taken on the same date. He would read out the contents—as it was a curiosity—for Irish whiskey. It was No, 3,504, and contained, from a Glasgow distillery, 1,162 gallons of patent spirits; from an Edinburgh distillery, 5,109 gallons; from Cameron Bridge, 1,633 gallons; and 299 gallons of Irish whiskey, or about 3½per cent of the whole contents. He would now give the contents of two vats from Belfast, which were even worse than the Dublin mixtures. No. 1 vat was taken in September, 1875. It contained 5,105 gallons in all; 534 gallons of that was Irish, and every other gallon was composed of silent spirit imported from Scotland. No. 4 vat in Belfast, taken in June, 1875, contained 6,417 gallons; 1,229 gallons of which were Irish, and the remaining 5,188 were composed of Scotch spirits. This was not to be wondered at when the House would recollect that this Scotch silent spirit could be bought from 2s. 7d. to 3s. 2d. per gallon, while the good Irish whiskey could not be bought for less than from 4s. 6d. to 7s. 2d. per gallon. Since the time of the Act of Union up to the year 1860 whiskey was never allowed to be tampered with while in bond; in fact, there were several Acts of Parliament which imposed heavy penalties for tampering with whiskey in bond. It had even been provided at one time that any cask which had been partially emptied should not be filled up at all with the same kind of spirit. By one short clause in an Act in 1860 the Government swept away all those safeguards in those old Acts of Parliament, and left the manufacturer of good whiskey open to the frauds now practised on him by clever traders. What, he asked, was the excuse to be offered for so sweeping a change, accomplished in this 1194 quiet and obscure manner? If he were to venture on a guess, he would say it might be traced to the same head that dictated the defence of silent spirit which came from Somerset House. There could be only one object in permitting this practice to continue, and that was to destroy that branch of Irish trade, and as he would show this was not the first attempt. They first increased the duty on Irish whiskey from 2s. 8d. per gallon to 10s. per gallon—an increase of 7s. 4d. per gallon—from 1852 to 1860, while during the same period they increased the duty on English made spirits by only 2s. 2d. per gallon, or a little more than a fourth of the increase in Ireland. Was not this another attempt to destroy that trade in his country? Worse than the increase of duty was the encouragement afforded to the sale of an inferior article; while, if they would put a stop to the mixing practice, the good articles would be sure to go ahead, for it improved by keeping as much as the bad article deteriorated. In 1858 a special Act was passed to allow the manufacture of spirits from rice, from which the "fire water" of the Indians was made; and the distillation from rice was the probable explanation of the falling-off in the Malt Duty which puzzled the Chancellor of the Exchequer; for in 1875 Scotland paid duty on 2,722,790 bushels of malt, and made 16,300,161 gallons of spirits, while Ireland paid duty on 3,226,161 bushels of malt, and yet made only 9,381,456 gallons of whiskey and spirits. The Irish distillation was little more than half the Scotch, and yet Ireland paid duty on 500,000 bushels of malt more than Scotland. Were not the Government offering a premium to the manufacturer to make a low-class article, when they assisted him in sending it out under the name of a genuine article? The Government did not allow teas to be mixed in bond; they did not allow the white wines of France to be mixed with the sherries of Spain, or the Tarragona ports to be mixed with the fine wines of Portugal, or the brandies of Bordeaux to be mixed with Cognac brandy. Why, then, should they allow any and every sort of spirits to be mixed with Irish whiskey? The hon. Member for Glasgow might meet him by stating they made as good whiskey in Scotland as was made in Ireland. In that event, all he (Mr. O'Sullivan) would 1195 way was—"If you do, why not let it stand on its own merits, and not try to sell it as Irish whiskey?" He could see no reason whatever for allowing this practice to continue, unless it was that the speculative jealousy of a few manufacturers in this country seemed to have more weight with the Government to destroy any manufactory in his country than all the Irish Members had in prevailing on the Government to do a simple act of justice. What would the public say if the Government were to allow deeds which were deposited in the Registry of Deeds Office to be tampered with for the purpose of private gain? Yet their conduct in permitting Irish whiskey to be tampered with while in their custody was just as bad. It was the habit of some merchants to get over Scotch whiskey and then to re-ship it to England as Irish whiskey. That was not done for the purpose of mixing, but was a fraud upon the consumer, and the way to put a stop to it was to direct that it should be retained in bond until it was 12 months old. It was shipped to Ireland, the Scotch permit was cancelled, and it was then sent to England to deceive the English consumer. The Scotch would not send their whiskey to Ireland for nothing, or unless there was something to be gained by it. If instead of being immediately transhipped it was kept in bond for 12 months, the greatest benefit would be conferred upon society, because the whiskey would get rid of all the fusel oil and would not drive the people mad, as it did at present. Before concluding he wished it to be distinctly understood that he did not rise for the purpose of asking any favour of the Government; neither did he rise to ask for any undue protection for any branch of trade in his country. If trade in his country was not able to exist without going back to the days of "protection," then let it perish; but he asked the House to extend to a branch of trade in Ireland—a trade in which millions of capital was sunk—that protection which they would give to a pinmaker in England—that was, to protect them from fraud and misrepresentation. He would now conclude by moving that a Select Committee be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the practice, and to report to the House whether the practice should continue or not.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the practice which has been permitted of late years of mixing Whiskey in Her Majesty's Bonding and Inland Revenue Stores with other spirits; to report to this House whether the practice is injurious to the public and to the manufacturers of Irish Whiskey, and whether, in the opinion of the Committee, the practice ought or ought not to be discontinued; and that the Committee do also inquire into the effect of using new made spirits, and to report whether it would be in the interest of the public for the Government to detain all spirits and Whiskey in Bond until it is at least twelve months old."—(Mr. O'Sullivan.)
§ MR. ANDERSON,
in rising to move, as an Amendment,—That, in the opinion of this House, the practice of 'blending' Whiskey does not necessarily cause adulteration; and it is inexpedient to deprive traders in British spirits of trade facilities that are allowed to traders in Foreign spirits, wines, and various other bonded articles,said, that this was not the first time the House had heard of this great Irish grievance, but no one had as yet taken the trouble to explode the hon. Gentleman's fallacies; but, if fallacies were reiterated without being contradicted, some one at last was found to believe in them. The truth of the matter was that some of the Irish distillers found their trade shifting away. They were unable to charge the extravagant prices they used to obtain, because another spirit was now made by a different process—a purer and better spirit—which was sold at a considerably lower price; and because these Irish distillers were unable to keep up the price of their spirit, they wanted the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come to their help and assist in keeping up the price for them. Irish whiskey had been praised very highly by the hon. Member, and called the very best whiskey in the world; but he had said very little against the silent spirit mixed with it, and in all the analyses he had laid before the House there was no mention made to-day of the pernicious ingredients mixed with the Irish spirit, which on a former occasion the hon. Member said he had felt as if it were a torchlight procession going down his throat. Every stranger who visited Ireland knew what Irish whiskey was. It was the most dangerous stuff in the world for a stranger to touch. No one but a native could drink it with impunity. It was full of headaches to the brim. He believed a man required to be weaned upon it in order to get 1197 acclimatized to its use. The coats of the stomach then became indurated—tanned as it were—in time, and it was impossible to get used to it without going through a process of that kind. Irish whiskey had a peculiar flavour, as every one knew, and this depended on the great quantity of fusel oil in it. Every one knew that this fusel oil was a rank poison; and it was that which, while it gave the beverage a peculiar flavour, made it so deleterious to those who were not accustomed to it. Well, the process of mixing the Irish spirit with the Scotch spirit took place in private, and not in Government stores, and was effected by warehousemen and owners. There were Government officers appointed to watch them, it was true, but nevertheless the mixing complained of was really done in stores which were private property. The whole process was that perfectly pure spirit distilled from good grain—not from products such as those mentioned in the article in The Times, which had been referred to—namely, unsound barley, beet-root, and potatoes—was used in the admixture. Some one had spoken of "vitriolic" Scotch whiskey, but none of these articles were used in the manufacture of silent spirit. If it were distilled from inferior articles and were bad spirit, it would cease to be "silent"—that was, free from all flavour, and having no noxious qualities whatever. It should be remembered that silent spirit was not sent to Ireland by the Scotch—it was brought from Scotland by the Irish, and used by them to improve the native spirit—[a laugh]—well, to make it less poisonous—to dilute the fusel oil, and thus to improve the whiskey. It was only by diluting the fusel oil that the Irish spirit was improved, and it was to do that the Scotch spirit was taken over to Ireland. The hon. Member (Mr. O'Sullivan) had admitted that the Scotch malt whiskey was the best whiskey which was made in the world. There was little room for doubt as to that; but there was little, very little, malt whiskey made in Ireland. A little, he thought, was made at Coleraine, but nearly all other Irish whiskey was made from raw grain, with only 15 or 20 per cent of malt to help the distillation. There was a great deal of raw-grain whiskey and very little malt, and it was made in the "pot-still," which was the still mostly used in Ireland. But in 1198 Scotland, the silent spirit of which the hon. Member complained, was made with a patent still, which produced whiskey purer, easier, and cheaper. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of whiskey being taken over to Ireland to mix with Irish whiskey for fraudulent purposes. He had failed to make out his case, however, for the people who bought the whiskey from the great dealers in Scotland were quite as good judges as the hon. Member himself, and if it were bad was it likely that they would buy it? The real fact was that they bought it because they got a better whiskey at a lower price. The hon. Member, in short, wanted the Chancellor of the Exchequer to help the Irish distillers to keep up the price of whiskey; whereas the Irish dealers were entirely opposed to such a course being adopted. They were teaching the Irish people by degrees to use a more innocent spirit than they had been accustomed to. The hon. Member had referred to certain things he (Mr. Anderson) had said with reference to the duty of the Government to collect the Revenue. He had somewhat overstated the remarks he had alluded to; but there could be no doubt that the duty of the Revenue Department of the Government was mainly to collect the Revenue. It certainly was not to guarantee any one's brand of anything. It was true that the system had worked well in the case of the Scotch herring fisheries; but it was, nevertheless, a bad system, and was opposed to the principles of political economy. The hon. Member had changed his demand since last year. Last Session when the Irish distillers went to the Chancellor of the Exchequer they asked that he should give orders that every "permit" with reference to mixed spirit should have a red cross put on it to condemn it in the eyes of the trade. Now the word "blended" had been adopted, and was to be stamped on the casks containing the mixed spirit. Irish distillers in Ireland were making use of the word by issuing advertisements, asking all customers to look at every cask they bought, in order to see that the word "blended" should not be marked upon it. That was ordered to be put on the casks years ago, when there was a differential drawback on the waste of spirits. That had ceased now, however, so that there was no occasion for the casks to branded, and he (Mr. Anderson) 1199 intended to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to repeal the clause of the Act in question. At a former time there had been a differential duty between malt whiskey and corn whiskey; and, at that time, it was necessary that the permits should be different for the two, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was obliged to draw a distinction; but as soon as that ceased, all branding and distinction of permit became unnecessary. When the Irish distillers asked to have a brand or a red cross put on blended spirits, it was clear how they would have got the better of the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he had listened to them. There was nothing to prevent Irish distillers from having both kinds of still, the pot-still and the patent-still, and some of them had the two, and they could make the two kinds of spirits, blend them in the same vat, and pass them through the Chancellor of the Exchequer's hands without the red cross. That would be the very whiskey the Irish dealers manufactured by mixing the Scotch with the Irish whiskey. Such a mixture by the distillers could not be supervised as it was when the spirit was mixed in bond. Methylated spirit could not, as was alleged, be put with it while it was under supervision of the Excise. It was after it left bond that it was in juriously adulterated; and it was in the retail trade that those articles were mixed with the spirit that caused the deaths and the filling of the lunatic asylums, and all the evils which had been referred to. Another charge by the hon. Member was that Scotch silent spirit was taken over to Ireland, stored there, and was sent back with an Irish "permit," and was sold as Irish. Well, what did that prove? Why that one was as good as the other, and that the Scotch whiskey, even unmixed with Irish, could be sold as such. For his part, he protested against the Chancellor of the Exchequer doing anything to assist Irish distillers in their trade. He had no objection whatever to the Chancellor of the Exchequer putting an end to all kinds of mixing and tampering with articles in bond—the fortifying of wine, the mixing of tea, and the manufacture of tobacco. But as those things were amongst the facilities of trade, no doubt, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer attempted to stop them there would be a great outcry against it. However, 1200 he did not care though all were stopped, but until Government were prepared to stop them all, he objected to stopping one of them, and particularly to preventing the blending of home spirits, while foreign spirits were freely mixed in bond all over the country. A great trade had grown up within the last few years in the blending of home spirits. In one Irish port alone—Belfast, he believed—it reached 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 gallons per annum—a trade which did not exist before the year 1860, and that immense trade would be interfered with, if it were not altogether stopped, if the course proposed by the hon. Member were adopted. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the practice of 'blending' Whiskey does not necessarily cause adulteration, and it is inexpedient to deprive traders in British spirits of trade facilities that are allowed to traders in Foreign spirits, wines, and various other bonded articles,"—(Mr. Anderson,)
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, the hon. Member for Limerick had given the definition of a patriot in his speech. He said that a patriot was a man who did not make speeches upon platforms, but who looked to the trade of the country. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) did not think that definition was full enough. What the hon. Gentleman meant by a patriot was a man who looked after the whiskey trade. He did not altogether dissent from the Motion in the shape in which the hon. Gentleman had put it, with the addition that spirits should be kept 12 months in the bonded warehouses. He wished they could be kept there altogether. If the hon. Gentleman had said 12 years instead of 12 months it would be all the better. He had a very few words only to say in reference to the Motion, as he could not say he felt personally qualified from practical experience to take part in the discussion. A grievance probably existed, as he had always heard from gentlemen who understood those subjects better than he did that it was a bad thing to mix your liquors. Still, he regretted that after the little conversation held last year upon the question the Chancellor of the 1201 Exchequer and the hon. Member for Limerick, when they had their private interview, did not get the matter settled, because in that case they would all be spared the present debate. Now, however, that the floodgates of talk had been opened he felt pretty sure—as every Irish Member took a warm interest in the subject—that they would have a prolonged discussion. They were asked for a Committee to report whether the practice to which the hon. Member objected was injurious to the public. It was absurd to suppose that the Motion of the hon. Member for Limerick was intended solely for the good of the public. The object of the Motion was to procure the appointment of a Committee, whose Report might possibly show that the practice of blending whiskey was injurious to the manufacturers of Irish whiskey, and ought, therefore, to be put a stop to, in the interest, not of those who consumed, but of those who were distillers of whiskey. It had been shown by the Report of a Commission issued in the summer of 1875 that much of the whiskey distilled in Scotland was very well adapted for mixing with other varieties of the spirit, and that in combination with Irish whiskey it made a more palatable drink than Irish whiskey alone. The Report to which he was alluding went on to state that there was no foundation for the allegation that Scotch whiskey of the kind objected to by the hon. Member for Limerick was deleterious. The Inland Revenue Commissioners, in a Report to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury dated May 25, 1875, stated as follows:—As a matter of fact, we believe that there is a considerable amount of blending of Scotch with Irish spirits. Certain Scotch distillers make a very pure, colourless, and flavourless spirit, technically termed 'silent spirit,' which for those very qualities is well adapted for mixing with other spirituous liquors. We must presume that the mixture of this with Irish spirits makes a palatable compound, otherwise it would certainly not be the interest of the dealers in spirits to encourage it. The allegation which has sometimes been made that it is deleterious is quite unfounded; indeed, it is the very opposite of the fact, it being notorious that the Irish whiskey owes a great part of its peculiar flavour to the fusel oil which it contains, and from which impurity the Scotch silent spirit is nearly free. Such being the facts, the question is whether the Dublin distillers have any right to call for our interference with the natural course of the spirit dealers' trade, for purposes entirely unconnected with the interests of the revenue.1202 That was quite sufficient ground for the Chancellor of the Exchequer voting against the proposed Committee. It was all very well for the hon. Member to talk about good and bad whiskey. It would be interesting to know his opinion as to whether society was not as much harmed by the consumption of what he would describe as good whiskey as it was by an indulgence in the spirit which he would describe as bad in quality. ["No, no!"] He knew somebody would say "No," so he had fortified himself with Irish authorities. He would venture to ask the attention of the House to some remarks which were made in the House last year in reference to this subject by an hon. and gallant Member who might be taken as a high authority on questions of the kind. ["Name."] He would give the speaker's name as soon as he had read a passage from his speech on the Irish Sunday Closing Bill of last year. The hon. and gallant Member said—If we had an old Irish Brehon sage here how would he proceed? He would approach the question somewhat in this fashion. He would say—'This whiskey is the destruction of my people; it ruins their health. It deprives them of their reason. It lowers them in the scale of creation even lower than brutes in the field. … Let it never appear in our sacred island again. Go, my officers, to the bonding warehouses, drag out the puncheons, the pipes, and the hogsheads of this poison; swill the streets of my cities with it; and as the very dogs lap it up and fall prostrate under its influence, let Irishmen learn what a foreign nation has provided for their destruction.'"—[3 Hansard, ccxxiv. 115.]That was the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Major O'Gorman). Could there be a better authority? Perhaps they might think there might be a better authority. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would give them that of a Judge, a man whom they used to hear with the greatest interest and delight in that House (Baron Dowse), who, in describing the effects of this good whiskey that the hon. Member for Limerick was so much enamoured of, and how drunkenness was increasing, said—It might be that that was owing to increased vigilance on the part of the police, or the increased vigilance on the part of the drinker, and his own opinion was that it was the latter.The learned Baronet went on to say that some people blamed the fusel oil in the whiskey; but he was of opinion that it 1203 was the quantity consumed, and not the fusel oil that caused the drunkenness. If it were the best of Irish whiskey made in Dublin, he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was afraid it would not be a good reform to increase the consumption anywhere. He remembered last year there was an election in Ireland, and a correspondent of a newspaper, writing about the election, said he was very much puzzled at first by the remarks which were always made when any rioting, and any window breaking was going on—"Oh, it was all John Jamieson." He thought John Jamieson was a very influential elector; but on making inquiries he found that it was the great distiller who was spoken of with all the affection which came by drinking his famous whiskey. It was the good whiskey—the Jamieson—the O'Sullivan whiskey—which produced all the riots in the town. Talk about their good whiskey; what did they mean by good whiskey? Whiskey that would make them drunk in the shortest possible time? The hon. Member turned round upon the hon. Member for Glasgow, and he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) thought there was going to be an international combat; and he charged the hon. Member for Glasgow with disregarding the lives, the health, and the security of the people of Ireland, because he supported the bad whiskey; but it was the good whiskey in Ireland that could be proved to produce all those evils. What did the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) say? He did not say the people were improved by drinking bad whiskey; but he said that those who dealt in intoxicating liquors were the cause of the crime, the disorder, and even the madness of the country; and those were the people who sent Members of Parliament to that House. One word about the adulteration. It was said that the adulterated drink did all the evil. He should like to have more evidence of that. It was his business to pry into that evidence, and he believed he could say that of all the articles adulterated there was nothing so little adulterated as strong drink, which would be a great deal better if adulterated by pure water. It was all nonsense this talk about the drink being adulterated. He remembered a gentleman talking about adulteration, and he said—"Why, it has got to that pitch 1204 now that a man gets drugged before he can get drunk." The truth was that people drank this stuff because it made them drunk. The hon. Gentleman had moved for a Select Committee on this subject; but he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) thought that the country was overburdened with Select Committees and Commissions. The country was completely overdosed with them, for they were appointed on every subject—from fugitive slaves down to oysters. He found that there were about 200 Members of that House appointed to serve on Select Committees. Some of these, no doubt, were duplicates; but it seemed to him that, after having selected such a number of first-rate men, there would hardly be a sufficient supply of them out of the other 400. He protested against the time of that House being wasted and taken up by a question of this kind. In the first place, he said that the matter was too small a one for an inquiry by a Select Committee; and, secondly, because no case at all had been made out as to the injury caused to the public; and, thirdly, they would offend the Home Rulers if they took this grievance away from them; and, in the fourth place, if they got a Committee to report that there was much difference between the evil effects of Irish and Scotch whiskey it would be propagating a dangerous delusion, because there was no trade doing more harm than this whiskey trade, whether the spirit was made in England, Scotland, or Ireland.
§ MR. M. BROOKS
denied that this was a distillers' question, for the Association of Distillers in Dublin had individually and collectively refrained from taking any part in the agitation on the subject. They were quite content to rest upon the reputation their own whiskies possessed in the market, and upon their own trade marks, without asking for the assistance of that House; but the silent or blended spirit referred to by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) was produced from such inferior materials—such as damaged grain, rice, potatoes, molasses, and similar rubbish—that it was necessary real Irish whiskey should in some way be distinguished from such a villanous compound. The true Irish whiskey was distilled from pure malt and water only; in fact, from materials which 1205 had made the Burton breweries so famous all over the world. It was, therefore, not right to say that real Irish whiskey was an unwholesome or injurious spirit. What was complained of was, that an article under that name was thrown into the market, which traded upon the reputation of those who made good and wholesome spirits, and, being vended for what it was not, interfered with the sale of the article it counterfeited. In fact, the process was to send to Ireland spirits of wine, tasteless in itself, distilled from damaged Indian corn, coarse sugar, and raw grain, in order that it might be coloured, flavoured, and sent back to England, as Irish whiskey. It was well known that the Government had for many years exercised a close supervision—and a very wholesome supervision—over the sale and mixing of tobacco, coffee, mustard, &c., &c. What the hon. Member for Limerick wished to secure by his Motion was, that such a supervision should also be exercised over the dealings in Irish whiskey, that those who wished to use it might be sure they were obtaining a pure, and not an impure article. The Government did exercise that supervision with respect to many other articles of common consumption, and there was no reason why it should not also be exercised in this case.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
did not imagine that this could be regarded as a national grievance, but it certainly was considered in Ireland as a Departmental grievance. Irish Members did not ask the Government to guarantee the whiskey of any Irish distiller; but they did object to the present arrangement, which under quasi-Government sanction, sent out of as bonded, and therefore he might, for his purpose, term, it a Government store an inferior mixed spirit under the denomination of Irish whiskey. During the discussions which had taken place in that House some 18 or 20 years past regarding wasteage in bond, he had acquired some knowledge, which he thought, bore upon the question then under consideration. There were both in Ireland and in Scotland two descriptions of stills in use—one which was called in Ireland the Patent Still, or Coffey's Still, produced only a perfectly neutral spirit, without any flavour, and which could therefore be used for rectifying purposes, to make brandy, gin, cordials, &c. This 1206 spirit when it attained to 60 degrees of strength over proof, was the "spirits of wine," of commerce. This "silent whiskey," to use another of its designations, contained no fusel oil, and in consequence of the economy as regarded fuel in using Coffey's Still, distillers could afford to sell whiskey thus made, at the least, 6d. a-gallon less than whiskey made by the ordinary "Pot Still;" but hon. Members should know that the best whiskey, both in Scotland and in Ireland, was always made in "Pot" stills as distinguished from "Coffey's" or Patent Stills, and all whiskey so made of necessity contained fusel oil, which was what imparted the flavour to the whiskey. Without some amount of fusel oil the whiskey would be like Coffey's still whiskey—mere neutral spirit, or spirits of wine, as it was popularly termed. It was plain then that to allow persons to blend this neutral spirit with Irish whiskey, it did not matter in what proportion, and in a bonded Government store, and then to sell it afterwards as Irish whiskey, was unfair to the Irish trader. Let the "blenders" mix their whiskey outside the bonded warehouse, and the Irish trader would have no cause for complaint.
said, he thought the subject was by no means so trivial as the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) seemed to imagine. A recent case tried before a Judge in Ireland, and which resulted in a verdict for the defendant, against whom the vendors of a cask of this spirit brought an action to recover the value, showed that silent whiskey actually maddened those who drank it; and, in his opinion, the Government ought not to sanction the mixing of so villanous a compound. They had last year passed the "Sale of Food and Drugs Bill," for the prevention of the deleterious admixture of articles, and he did not see why the adulteration of spirits in Ireland should not be made illegal also.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
said, he should not have ventured to intrude himself into the whiskey war, because it really was a very dangerous matter, but for the omissions in the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle. He made certain that, when the hon. Baronet got upon his legs, that his country was going to be defended, because the hon. Baronet sat for Carlisle, 1207 which was close on the Borders, and he must be acquainted with the virtues of Scotch whiskey. Yet he did not say one single word in defence of the Scotch distillers, or of the Scotch national beverage; and he (Sir Robert Anstruther) thought that he had a very great grievance against the hon. Baronet. This was a very serious matter, and the most vital interests were at stake. The Scotch distillers were accused of spreading madness, lunacy, disease, and every other possible form of evil into the Sister Isle; and the idea of an Irishman ever having been drunk at a wake, or a fair, or an election, until the Scotch silent spirit was introduced was, it appeared, the most monstrous fiction ever heard of. The House was told that an Irishman might drink a gallon of his own whiskey without any serious inconvenience, but for the fact of the introduction of this Scotch silent spirit. So far from that being the case, he believed that the real source of the complaint was that the Scotch whiskey was not strong enough. He remembered a story told by the late Dr. Norman M'Leod, of Glasgow, of a Highlander who visited Glasgow, and there partook of the Lowland whiskey, which was so weak that he said—"It's just a taste in your mou', and then its awa'; but a Hieland dram gangs down whumblin', and up and doon your wame a' the day, and as a kind o' a friend tae ye." If these monstrous iniquities were to be perpetuated, and if Scotland was to continue to send this silent spirit, he could only say that the days of the Union must be short indeed. There was no compulsion on people to buy blended whiskey if they did not like it, and they should surely be at liberty to buy what they liked. The fact was the Irish manufacturers simply used the hon. Member who brought forward this Motion as an advertising board for their own wares. It was admitted that Scotch spirit was silent—that was, harmless. It was admitted that blending had become a work of art or science, and it was simply because the Dublin manufacturers could not undersell those who had made a study of blending that they now came to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and asked him to interfere. If there were no other reasons for not appointing the Committee, he ventured to mention one which he thought would be sufficient. If the Members of the Committee were ex- 1208 pected to taste all the different kinds of whiskey, together with the fusel oil and other abominations that had been stated to exist, let them try to conceive the state in which these 21 Gentlemen would be. Why, there would not be one of them but would have delirium tremens; and, for his own part, he implored the hon. Member not to ask him to serve on the Committee, because he feared his health, as well as that of all the other Members, would be permanently injured. The real truth of the matter was that this was merely an attempt to get an inconvenient competition out of the way, and he therefore hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would oppose the Motion.
§ DR. WARD
said, that if there was so little difference between the Irish and Scotch whiskies, it was remarkable that the Scotch Members should be so anxious to oppose this Motion. He admitted there was no compulsion on the Irish people to drink this whiskey; but there was compulsion on the Irish retailers to sell it. Referring to the remarks of the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), he admitted it would be a good thing if he could induce everybody to give up drinking; but the best answer to his arguments was that the people had not given it up, and were not likely to do so, and so long as the people drank whiskey, the Government were bound to protect them from ruinously adulterated supplies of that article. When Irish Members said that the article was bad and the Scotch Members that it was good, who could decide but a Committee? Adulterated whiskey produced more drunkenness than unadulterated whiskey, because it destroyed more quickly the power of nervous resistance in the individual; though the hon. Member for Carlisle did not seem to agree in this. [Sir Wilfrid Lawson: I referred to whiskey adulterated with water.] He (Dr. Ward) did not deny that alcohol produced immense mischief, but it was not necessarily a poison. There was not a particle of grain food that did not contain a considerable portion of stimulant, and the making of whiskey, beer, and wine was nothing but taking this form of food and cooking it. He called upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to remember this—that if he drove out of Ireland by the present system a fair and honest article, all the bad articles that would be imported would do harm to the Exchequer.
said, he hoped to be allowed to speak a few sentences in order that he might not continue to suffer great personal injury. He seemed to be considered by the country as having been "blended" with the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan). He received from day to day letters asking him to consider this matter; and he was looked forward to as the saviour of the country; whilst he believed that the hon. Member for Limerick was often favoured as though he were a member of the United Kingdom Alliance. He was, therefore, anxious to have it understood that he was not the Member for Limerick, and that his hon. Friend was not the Member for Louth. He hoped the question would be divested of the national element which had been thrown into it by the exuberance of the hon. Member who had just spoken. He should vote with his hon. Friend because as between the battle of the poisons, he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no right to intervene for the protection of what was euphemistically called blending. Not, however, that he believed these fanciful stories about the evils of Ireland being attributable to what was called "honest" whiskey not being drunk, for before the Patent Still was patented there drunkenness, madness, gaols, and lunatic asylums existed in Ireland. If they believed some people, they would think that the more a person drank of this honest Irish whiskey the soberer he would go home in the morning, whilst if a man were seen reeling along the street, a licensed victualler would say—"Ah, he has not been drinking honest whiskey; he has been fusel-oiling himself; or he has been drinking at some low beer-shop." Although it was not a national Irish question, he thought that it was one that invited inquiry. Yet, notwithstanding all this, he was of opinion that whether it were Irish whiskey or Scotch whiskey the whole system was pernicious to society. The hon. Member for Limerick said that it was not so bad if taken in moderation. That was the excuse for all whiskey-drinking—"it was always excellent if only taken in moderation." That was the slang of the whiskey-trade—yes, of all who admired the alcoholic business; all such drinks were good—provided that you did not take too much.
§ MR. DUNBAR
also supported the Motion, What the Irish distillers com- 1210 plained of was that the Government should give facilities for this blending and the mixture of deleterious stuff. If Scotch whiskey was better than Irish whiskey, let it drive Irish whiskey out of the market, if it could; but let each stand on its own merits, and each have fair play.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that this question had been for a considerable time under his notice; he had had a good deal of correspondence and conference upon it; and he had also the advantage of having the opinions of the Board of Customs and Inland Revenue upon the subject. He had listened with great attention to the discussion upon the proposal of the hon. Member, and he was bound to say that it had not brought out any new facts or arguments, and he saw no reason for departing from the conclusion at which the Government had already arrived. The object which the Government and the Board of Inland Revenue had in dealing with a matter of this kind was simply the protection of the Revenue. As far as possible they desired to collect the Revenue for Imperial purposes without in any way embarrassing the operations of trade. If the Government simply had to look to the convenience of the collectors of the Revenue, they should desire that no operation should take place with the spirits when once they were placed under the charge of Government officers, and they would be only too glad to adopt the simplest possible principle. But with regard not only to whiskey, but to other articles, they were met by this consideration—that those who were interested in dealing with them—namely, the manufacturers themselves, said to the Government that measures for the protection of the Revenue "not only impose upon us an inconvenient burden in the shape of a certain amount of duty, which is necessary, but they impose upon us restrictions in the natural operation of our trade, which are necessary." They said that if there were no duty they would be at perfect liberty to mix articles with other articles, whether it were tea, or wine, or spirits, so that they might command the market for which the thing was intended. Whether the mixture of whiskies was done for the purpose of improving the quality of the spirits or for reducing its cost 1211 was a question with which the Government had nothing whatever to do. If it were not for fiscal regulations the manufacturer would be enabled to choose his own course. An hon. Member had spoken of the practice permitted of late years of mixing the whiskey in Her Majesty's bonded stores, and it had been noticed that it was a practice which had prevailed since 1860. That was perfectly true, but the reason was obvious. Before that time the duty upon spirits in different parts of the United Kingdom was different, and it would have been exceedingly inconvenient, and indeed dangerous, to the Revenue to allow spirits paying different rates of duty to be mixed together. Therefore, for fiscal reasons, this was prohibited; but when the spirit duty for different parts of the United Kingdom was equalized, the fiscal reason came to an end, and then the Revenue officers, not desiring to interfere unnecessarily with the operations of trade, said to the manufacturers—"So long as you do not prejudice the interests of the Revenue, do what you please in the way of manufacturing the article." What were called the bonded stores of the Government were really the premises of the manufacturers themselves; they carried on the manufacture in their own premises, but these premises, for the purpose of protecting the Revenue, were placed under the Government lock and key, so that the manufacturer could not conduct his own business without the supervision of the Government officer to see that the Revenue did not suffer. If a man could, without having the Government lock upon his premises, blend his spirits, why should the Government interfere, unless there was some fiscal reason for it? As a matter of fact, they did interfere to some extent in the direction required by the hon. Member (Mr. O'Sullivan); because when spirits which were under the Government lock and key were blended, they required that the word "blended," or a mark showing that the spirit had been blended, should be placed upon the cask. Undoubtedly, this was in the first instance adopted for fiscal reasons; but it was still continued, and the mark warned the wholesale dealer who purchased the cask that it did not contain spirit which was simply the produce of one distillery, but spirit from different distilleries which, had been 1212 mixed together. If this blending were not allowed in bond, the purchaser could afterwards blend spirits, and there would be no possible way of interfering. He was told there were many cases in which spirits mischievously adulterated were sold by retailers; but he believed that adulteration was effected, not in the Government stores, but in the hands of the retailers themselves. The principle on which the Government acted was to abstain from interfering with the operations of trade, and from attempting to give a character to articles which had been in their hands for a particular purpose. It was said that a character was really given, for the effect of their having passed through Government hands caused them to be advertized as having come straight from the Government bonded warehouse. There was a parallel instance of this in a different matter. It was said, some time ago, that insurance companies doing business among the poor tendered to them policies bearing the Government stamp; and it was therefore conceived that the company was under the sanction of or patronised by the Government. There was just as much connection between the Government stamp upon policies of insurance and the sanction which was supposed to be given by the Government in reference to the spirits which had passed through their hands in order that duty might be raised upon it. The Government would follow a false policy if they were to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member. He had considered the matter carefully, and he had no desire at all to take a prejudiced view of it; but, on the contrary, he had gone into it with the view of meeting the wishes of the Irish distillers. He repeated the Government would not be doing their duty if they assented to the proposal. Feeling as he did that they ought not to encourage false ideas, and that the time of the House ought not to be occupied with inquiries which they did not expect would have a good result, he should depend upon the House to reject the Motion.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he thought the object of the Mover of the Resolution could be obtained if, instead of the mark "blended" being perfectly undecipherable, the casks were painted red or blue, showing that the article was not what it primâ facie purported 1213 to be. They were told by the hon. Member for Glasgow that Scotch whiskey was as good as the Irish, if not better. If that were the case, why did they not take the Irish whiskey to Scotland, and let it be blended with the Scotch whiskey in bond there, and then come across the Border direct as Scotch whiskey? If the Government would undertake that the brand of blending should be so complete that those who ran might read, he had no objection whatever to urge against the practice of blending in bond. But if the practice of blending in bond was used, as upon good authority they were told it was, for the purpose of palming off an article called Irish whiskey which was not Irish whiskey, he thought it was the duty of the Government to counteract that practice in every way possible.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, there were two questions which might fairly be asked in this debate—first, why Government permitted the blending of Irish whiskies in their bonded stores; and second, why Scotch whiskies were brought over to Ireland and blended? He was sorry to find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no satisfactory reply to give to the first question. It appeared to him (Mr. Parnell) that the right hon. Gentleman took a narrow and restricted view of his duty when he said it was only the province of the Revenue Department to look after the Revenue. But when they found, as had been proved that evening, that the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was used to adulterate and disseminate a poisonous liquid amongst the people of Ireland, they must admit that the functions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Revenue Department were used to very bad purpose. Then as to the second question, the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) appeared to put it on this basis—that according to the principle of free trade whiskey or other goods might be sent to any part of the United Kingdom, and that therefore there was no reason why Scotch whiskey should not be sent to Ireland and sold there. No doubt there was no good reason why it should not be sent to Ireland and sold there; but there was great reason why it should not be sent to Ireland and mixed with and sold as Irish whiskey, and brought into competition with Irish whiskey. What they complained of was that 1214 this inferior and poisonous Scotch silent spirit was brought over to Ireland, mixed with Irish whiskey, and was then taken to all parts of the world, and back again to Scotland, and sold as Irish whiskey. The issue before the House was a very plain one. He did not complain of Scotch whiskey going over to Ireland; but he complained that Government sanction and protection was extended to Scotch silent spirit, which, at the price of 2s. per gallon, was used to destroy Irish whiskey, and not only the whiskey itself but the people who drank it. He believed that as much would be done to prevent drunkenness and crime in Ireland by improving the quality of the whiskey as by the Sunday Closing Bill, for which he intended to vote. He asked the House to look at this question dispassionately. If the regulations of the Government were such as to render it necessary that good Irish whiskey should be mixed with the wretched Scotch stuff, and that the Irish people should be poisoned by it, then he thought that every Irishman, whatever might be his politics, would admit that the sooner they had their own Customs House under the control of an Irish Parliament, and their own Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, the better.
§ SIR WILLIAM CUNINGHAME,
who had an Amendment on the Paper to the effect that "the blending or mixing pure malt whiskies be not in any way interfered with," remarked that this question had been debated as if it were a question between Ireland and Scotland. It was so, no doubt, to a certain extent; but it was much more a question between Irishmen and Irishmen. If bad Scotch whiskey was prevented from being mixed with Irish, bad Irish would be used instead. As far as his inquiries would enable him to form an opinion there was very little good whiskey distilled in Ireland at all. There were only four distillers in Ireland who distilled from malt. This was a question between them and all other distillers, Irish as well as Scotch. He objected to the proposal of the hon. Member for Limerick, because if it were assented to it would prevent any blending or mixing of whiskey of any description. There was a large bonâ fide trade carried on in mixing the highest class of whiskies to improve their flavour, and it could not 1215 be doubted by anyone who knew what whiskey was that a good blend was very much superior to the best whiskey by itself, whether Scotch or Irish. He did not wish to have this judicious, proper, and beneficial mixture of the best high class whiskies in bond interfered with for the sake of four Dublin distillers. If interference with blending of high class pure malt spirits could be avoided, he would be inclined to go with the hon. Member for Limerick in wishing to see articles sold as far as possible under their own name.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that the hon. Baronet (Sir William Cuninghame) was as ignorant as to Irish whiskey as was the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson). He (Mr. Callan) protested against the assumption that no really good whiskey was made in Ireland. The name of Jamieson was as well known in England as it was in Ireland. Near Belfast, which was the principal city in which this fraudulent blending was carried on, the Coleraine distillery was exceedingly well-known for its whiskies. What he rose for was to suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that every permit for blended whiskey should have on the face of it some distinct mark, so that it could be distinguished at once by the person ordering the whiskey. The Government should not be silent parties to the perpetration of a fraud on the English dealers; and if what he suggested were adopted, it would partly meet the object of the hon. Member for Limerick.
§ MR. GREENE
said, a debate of this sort was nothing more than the advertising of the wares of certain manufacturers, and there should be a charge for such a debate, in order that the Revenue might get benefit from it.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
denied that his Motion if agreed to would have the effect of restricting trade. The Chancellor of the Exchequer talked about fortified wines, but he did not see what that had to do with whiskey. Wines must be fortified in bond to keep them. He denied that he stood up in the interest of any distiller. He stood up in the interests of the public, and considered it a shame that any Government should sanction a fraud on the public as it was practised in the Custom House. The large trader was able to protect himself. It was the small trader and consumer who wanted protection. If the Govern- 1216 ment would mark the permit so that the buyer would know what he was getting he (Mr. O'Sullivan) would withdraw his Motion, or otherwise he should go to a division.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 69; Noes 145: Majority 76.
That the words 'in the opinion of this House, the practice of 'blending' Whiskey does not necessarily cause adulteration, and it is inexpedient to deprive traders in British spirits of trade facilities that are allowed to traders in Foreign spirits, wines, and various other bonded articles,' be added, instead thereof.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.