§ MR. MACFARLANE
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, If, before the introduction of the annual Budget statement for this year, he will take into his serious consideration the desirability of reducing or abolishing the Duties upon tea and coffee, the consumption of these beverages tending to the promotion of temperance and sobriety; and, if the revenue cannot bear the loss that would arise from this step, he will consider the possibility of making good the deficiency by increasing the tax upon spirits two shillings a gallon?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GLADSTONE)
Sir, the Question of my hon. Friend is of a kind which it is the uniform rule of the Finance Minister to decline answering; and I have to apologize to him and to the House for having been inadvertently led to deviate from this rule during the present year. I can hardly excuse myself for it, except by saying that I think it was my first fault in that respect, by answering in regard to one or two particular duties that would not be interfered with. I have felt the inconvenience of that in the cropping up of one or two other Questions, for I have been asked whether other duties will be interfered with? The hon. Member is probably well enough acquainted with the balance of the Revenue to be able to form an opinion for himself on the subject. In asking to be excused from giving an 1296 answer to the present Question, I hope the bad example which I set in the present year will only be remembered for the purpose of avoiding it, in as much as the practice is, in certain states of the Public Revenue, a very great public inconvenience indeed if it were to be imitated.