HC Deb 20 May 1890 vol 344 cc1431-50

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Postponed Clause 6.

(4.40.) MR. BLANK (Armagh, S.)

I beg to move, in line 34, to leave out the word "gallon" and insert "hogshead." The object of this is to reduce the taxation on the shoulders of those people who are least able to bear it. The amount of taxation raised from the Alcohol Duties is £21,649,448, and this presses very unequally on the rich and poorer classes. For three glasses of British spirit, the poor man pays, say, 1s., and out of it he pays 9d. on duty, but suppose a man consumed a bottle of wine that cost 1s. 6d., the only payment to the Exchequer out of that is a 1d. This increased taxation now proposed means increased adulteration, and it means an increase in illicit distillation, and consequent loss to the Revenue. I cannot say that I should be prepared to condemn this illicit distillation, though technically it is against the law, because I know the taxation upon the article is unjust and is unequal in its incidence between the rich and the poor. I know it is urged that the heavy taxation will conduce to temperance, because it will act as a check upon consumption, but I am quite sure that those who have studied the question will come to the conclusion that this is all nonsense. If you were to take all the taxes off, I do not believe there would be a whit more drunkenness, and, indeed, I believe there would be less. There would' be less of the habit of men treating each other, for it would be a cheap and common means of refreshment, and there wonld not be heavy drinking bouts alternately with periods of total abstinence. The very heavy duty on spirits stimulates the manufacture of spirits from unwholesome materials, bad spirit impregnated with fusel oil finds its way into consumption, and Excise officers can tell you that a large amount of spirit is made from molasses and other substances. I am not greatly impressed by the statement made in the Times that a similar Amendment to this, devoted to the Customs Duty, was a foolish and meaningless Amendment. It is simply a protest against the working classes being robbed, as practically they are, with every glass of liquor they take, and being compelled to bear taxation which, if fairly adjusted, should fall upon the landed class and the richer classes in the community.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 34, to leave out the word "gallon" and insert the word "hogshead."—(Mr. Blane.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'gallon' stand part of the Clause."

*(4.43.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square

I really have nothing to say more than I said yesterday in regard to a similar proposal The whole argument of the hon. Member goes for a total abolition of the duty. It would be far better to make a total remission of the duty than to reduce it to a 54th part of 6d, which would be a ridiculous conclusion.

(4.43.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

My hon. Friend has explained the principle upon which he makes his proposal, he finds that opinion is adverse to it, and I would suggest that he should not put the Committee to the trouble of a Division.

(4.44.) MR. BLANE

Yesterday I had three Amendments, only one of which I actually moved, and did not take a Division, but all the same I am met with a charge of obstruction. Neither yesterday or to-day has the right hon. Gentleman convinced me that there is any absurdity in my proposal, but though the Government have not showed themselves worthy of much consideration, yet, in deference to the request of my hon. Friend, I will not insist on the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

(4.45.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

I take the liberty of moving the Amendment of which I have given notice, to insert in line 34 the words— Of Spirits which shall not have been in bond for a period of at least one year the duty of 6d. per proof gallon, and so in proportion for any less quantity. This raises a very important question on which we have had no defence of the Government proposal, and, indeed, a somewhat qualified assent to my view from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It may be objected that it raises the whole question which was raised on a former occasion upon the "Bonding of Spirits Bill," but that is not quite the case. The Amendment reduces to a minimum the ill effects of the proposed new tax as regards Ireland and Scotland, and will, I think, largely tend to diminish the annoyance the tax will cause. If there is one thing more than another in connection with the Spirit Duties upon which all parties are agreed, it is that it is highly desirable, if it is practicable, that new spirits should not find their way into consumption, or, at any rate, that no facilities should be offered for such spirits finding their way into ordinary consumption. Where my Amendment differs from the proposal to bond all spirits for 12 months, is in giving a Differential Duty of 6d. a gallon in favour of spirits that have been bonded 12 months, favour being shown to the better article, which is not likely to produce the injurious effect on the consumer that new spirit does; whereas the Bill to which I have alluded proposed to apply the 12 months restriction to all spirits. In 1879 that Bill passed its Second Reading without Division, and why it was not carried to a legislative enactment I do not understand. I have read the Debates on that and other occasions, and I find that any argument used against the bonding of spirits for 12 months could not apply to this Amendment, because here the bonding for that time is optional and is not absolutely demanded, but the Preferential Duty will encourage dealers to put the same mellow spirit on to the market. There is an abundance of testimony to show the injurious effects of new spirits, and all authorities are agreed that, at the present time, a large amount of new spirit, containing fusel oil in large proportion, finds its way into general consumption, with, of course, great injury to the health of the consumers. The Committee appointed to hold the inquiry in reference to the Adulteration of Food Act of 1872 reported unanimously on this very subject. They said there was a singularly unanimous expression of opinion from scientific witnesses as to the perfectly maddening effect of the consumption of new spirit. Dr. Cameron, a well-known scientific authority, said that fusel oil was highly pernicious, even in small quantities, and he went on to express an opinion that it would be well if new spirit were not allowed to be removed from bonded stores until after the expiration of an appointed time, say a year. That is exactly in the direction of my Amendment, which is, however, not compulsory. Another authority, Dr. McAdam, F.R.S., Professor of Chemistry at Edinburgh University, said— I have not the slightest doubt that the fusel oil in whisky is injurious to health, and I believe in most cases the maddening effects attaching to whisky drinking are due to the presence of fusel oil. That Committee arrived at its opinion upon testimony which was overwhelming to the same effect. Last night we had' an expression of opinion from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he undertook that this question should be considered, not only from a Revenue point of view, but as it concerns the health of the community. That being so, I suggest that my Amendment is well worthy of attention, and is a step towards a solution of the difficulty. If we bring in a Bill to provide that all spirits shall remain in bond for 12 months, we shall meet with opposition from certain distillers, who will urge that it is unfair to ask them to lock up their capital for 12 months, thereby handicapping them in their competition with importers of foreign spirits, but my proposal, acting in a permissive way, will give the home distillers the benefit of the difference in duty if they give the public a more wholesome article. I hope I have made my meaning clear-, and I believe there would be no Excise difficulty in carrying out my suggestion. The consumption of spirits in England, Scotland, and Ireland, is on the increase, and how far that increased consumption is made up of new spirits it is impossible to ascertain. I have endeavoured to find out, but I have been unsuccessful. I do not know whether the Government have any means of ascertaining-the respective proportions of new and of matured spirits sold, but I think one would be safe in arguing that, if this additional tax of 6d. per gallon is imposed, and if the Government entertain the idea that its imposition will bring about an increased Revenue, the actual result will be that a greater quantity of new spirits will be put on the market. I think it would be better by far to offer an encouragement to distillers to keep their spirits in bond for a good period. I am not concerned, either directly or indirectly, in the trade, but I am making this Motion in the interests of the good character of both Scotch and Irish whiskies, because I know that, under the present absurd - system of Excise collection, a large quantity of maddening new spirit is now put on the market, and I am anxious to restrict the sale of such spirit. Those who are jealous of the reputation of whisky should support this Motion. I have been told by some hon. Members of this House that they would prefer to see whisky abolished altogether. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker-mouth, who makes such interesting-speeches on the subject of temperance, said, that instead of keeping spirits in bond for one year he would prefer to see them kept in bond for two hundred years. But we must approach this subject as sensible men. If whisky is made to be drunk, surely it is an advantage that it should be given to the public in a form in which it will not produce bad effects. I know of some parts of Ireland where it has produced most terrible effects; and if we refer to the Constabulary Returns, and to the evidence of those who are interested in the subject, we shall find that the new whisky that is sold in many parts, bath of Scotland and of Ireland, produces these bad effects, both on the morals and on the health of the community, and leads to a very large amount of disturbance and disorder. If anything could be done to diminish the terrible evils of intemperance, which undoubtedly arises from the consumption of new spirits, I think it should be done; and I believe that the Amendment which I have proposed would be a step in the right direction, and one which ought to command the sympathy both of the Committee and of the Government.

Amendment proposed, In page 2, line 34, to leave out all the words after "gallon," and insert the words "of spirits which shall not have been in bond for a period of at least one year the duty of sixpence per proof gallon, and so in proportion for any-less quantity."—(Mr, Flynn.)

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

*(5.8.) MR. GOSCHEN

I can assure the hon. Member that I have devoted a portion of the short time which has elapsed since last night's Sitting to a study of this particular question. I have been in conference with distillers from Scotland, and, although I desire to deal seriously with this question, I am not prepared to accept this Amendment in the form in which the hon. Member has put it. We must proceed with considerable caution in the matter. I can assure the hon. Member, however, that it is receiving most careful consideration. It would be necessary, for instance, to define the class of spirits which ought to be kept in bond. It is not all spirits that should necessarily be so treated. The Amendment may be desirable in the interests of whisky, but I am told that in the case of gin that spirit is as good, as far as health is concerned, immediately after manufacture, as it is after keeping it for a considerable time I propose to have a scientific examination made on this question, and I, therefore, hope that the hon. Member will not press his Amendment.

(5.9.) MR. SEXTON

I am glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has determined to pay attention to this very serious question. But what he has stated in reference to the difficulty is a matter which, I think, might be dealt with in Committee. Of course, if gin stands in the position stated by the right hon. Gentleman, it could easily be excepted from the operation of this Amendment. I contend that the interests of the Irish whisky manufacturers are seriously damaged by the lack of a provision such as is contained in this Amendment. This question has been a long time before the House. It is a complicated question, and I trust that now the right hon. Gentleman has entered upon an investigation he will be able to put a stop to the practice of which my hon. Friend complains, and I also hope that before next year's financial proposals are made we shall have communicated to us the decision at which the right hon. Gentleman has arrived.

*(5.11.) MR. GOSCHEN

Yes, Sir. I certainly will undertake before another year's Budget to announce my decision, but I hope to be able to deal with this mattereven before then. I shall place myself in communication with the distillers of Ireland in the same way as I have communicated with those of Scotland.

5.12.) MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

I desire to say I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has gone the right way to work in making inquiries into the matter if he has consulted only distillers.


I have consulted others than the distillers, and am in communication with scientific authorities who may be able to throw some light on this subject. I desire to communicate with anyone who may be able to assist in this investigation.


I am glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that he is in consultation with authorities other than distillers. I have a very great regard for distillers, but the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I impress upon him the serious importance of this subject, so far as the Irish people are concerned. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the character of Irish whisky, when it gets fair play, is very high indeed. I do not know whether it is within his knowledge that very recently a great and distinguished monarch was kept alive for a very long period by the use of this stimulant, medically applied. I am told, on the highest authority, that the late Emperor Frederick was almost fed on Irish whisky during the latter months of his life. Experience proves that Irish whisky, when properly dealt with, pos- sesses very valuable characteristics, but I am sorry to say that its character at the present time is very low indeed. In fact, the distillers and manufacturers have been driven out of the market by the adulteration of the article. Irish distillers, unfortunately for themselves, have a habit of selling all their productions in a new and raw state. The whisky is made from the very best materials, and it is able to resist the largest amount of adulteration; but when it gets over to England it is so-mixed up with deleterious commodities that its character is destroyed. I have noticed that, as a result of this, in the great refreshment houses in the Metropolis, the demands for Irish whisky are only about one-ninth of those for Scotch whisky. That is a revolution which has been brought about in the trade during the last 15 years.


Order, order! The hon. Member is surely straying very far from the Amendment before the House. This Amendment does not affect any particular whisky. It only provides for the keeping in bond of spirits for one year.


I only want to point out that if Irish whisky is taken out of bond before it is 12 months old it is more liable to adulteration with deleterious compounds, and I believe if this Amendment were carried it would be an encouragement to Irish distillers to keep the spirit until it is perfectly matured. I am speaking, also, in the interests of the Irish barley growers. The population of Ireland is largely engaged in agricultural pursuits, and I believe that one effect of passing this Amendment would be to give the agricultural population a little better opportunity of meeting the many and weighty engagements which they are already under, and which they are about to enter into with the State. I have still another reason, and that is in connection with the health of the people at home. I am sorry to say, from my knowledge of the trade in Ireland, that the people engaged in distributing this drink to the poor buy, in most cases, the very newest and the very rawest spirits. They then reduce it to a very low degree—far below proof—and subsequently add to it a quantity of deleterious spirit in order to give it a strong flavour, and to make it so that the customer can feel it going down his throat. Now, the spirit thus provided has a very bad effect on the health and on the morality of the people. New whisky taken out of bond is able to resist this reduction to a much greater degree than old spirit, and I think that the adoption of this Amendment would have a beneficial effect on the Irish people at home, by securing the destruction of the power to add to the spirit these deleterious compounds. We should get a more wholesome and a better article for the consumption of the people. I have for a great many years observed the evil effects produced on the people in Ireland by the use of new whisky, and I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Committee would confer great benefit on the people if they accepted this Amendment.

(5.21.) MR. DUFF (Banffshire)

This question affects Scotland as well as Ireland. I have among my constituents a considerable number of distillers. Of course, I do not claim many supporters among them, because I have never opposed the increase of the Spirit Duties. But I have had communication with many distillers, who have urged me to support This Amendment, I desire particularly to draw attention to the use of the German potato spirit. I am informed that it is no uncommon thing for the spirits to be blended in the Custom House, and for the German potato spirit to be used for this purpose. I am informed also that if Scotch whisky is kept in bond for 12 months this adulteration with German spirit would become impossible. I, therefore, ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for an assurance that he will put a stop to the custom of allowing Scotch whisky, adulterated with German potato spirit, to be sold in the open market as genuine Scotch whisky. I think the principle of Trade Mark legislation might very well be applied to the whisky trade, and I shall be glad to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he will not overlook this point.

*(5.23.) MR. GOSCHEN

Proposals have already been made for preventing this practice, but I am afraid they have not been practical ones. I have asked the authorities at Somerset House to investigate this matter. I agree with the general principle that Trade Mark legislation ought to apply to spirits as well as to other articles of commerce, and I hold that Scotch or Irish whisky which is largely composed of German potato spirit should not be sold as Scotch or Irish whisky.

(5.25.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

I think that, after the expression of opinion by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it will not be necessary for us to divide on this Amendment. We are aware, from what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said on previous occasions on this matter, that he has a not unsympathetic mind. He has stated that he is examining into this question. We know that he has enormous sources of information at his command; information which is largely of a Departmental character; but I would suggest that he should come into more direct contact with the distillers. There is now a Committee sitting upstairs to consider the Trades Marks Amendment Act of last year, and I would suggest whether it would not be desirable to refer the question to that Committee, or to a Special Sub-Committee, in order to go fully into the matter. I am strongly in favour of temperance, and I think it is to the interest of everyone that pernicious spirits should not be sold. It is in the interest of temperance men, as well as moderate drinkers, among whom I number myself, that we should have reasonable and legitimate protection from the adulteration of Scotch and Irish spirits. I am very glad to think this question has made great progress since it was first brought forward by the late Mr. O'Sullivan. I think the Government are entitled to great credit for the action which they have taken in connection with the Merchandise Marks Amendment Act. It is a valuable measure to the commercial community, and I would urge on the right hon. Gentleman that this question of the blending of whisky, and the keeping it in bond, is one which, being as it is of an entirely non contentious character, might very well be referred to a Committee, which could have before it rectifying distillers and others interested in the trade. I think an inquiry by such a Committee would very materially strengthen the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in deal- ing with the question of the importation of foreign spirits.


I may state that the idea has passed through my own mind as to whether it would not be wise to refer this subject to a Committee upstairs. I thought it my duty to make the necessary inquiry into the matter myself; but I should be very glad to share with or pass over the responsibility to a Committee of this House. I will, however, communicate with my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury on the subject, but I think it right to add that, in my opinion, it would be well to refer this question, together with other similar matters in relation to the group of questions connected with the manufacture of whisky and other spirits, to the same Committee, should one be appointed; but, at the same time, it must be understood that this is not to interfere with the question of taxation.

(5.31.) MR. J. O'CONNOR

I think the right hon. Gentleman will be doing well in referring this question to a Committee, and I hope it will be a Special Committee, and by no means a large one. After what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I do not think it necessary to refer to another matter I was about to urge upon him with reference to the question of branding; and therefore I will only suggest the employment of a brand or mark, such as the letter B, on any blend, which distinctive mark should be continued up to the moment the Customs receive the goods.

*(5.32.) MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)

I am extremely glad to have heard the statement just made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I have no doubt that his promise will greatly facilitate the passage of the Bill.

(5.32.) MR. FLYNN

I feel grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the statement he has just made. I would suggest that in the inquiries he may make he should consult the Irish distillers, who are fully competent to furnish every information as to the character the Irish whiskies hold in the general market and the disadvantages to which they have been subjected by a long course of unfair treatment. I am glad of the reception given to my Amendment, and I wish to express my agreement with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tipperary that it would be better to have a small than a large Committee, and also that it would be better to have a Special Committee than to send the questions to be considered to the Merchandise Marks Committee. After what has now taken place, I ask leave of the House to withdraw my Amendment.

(5.34.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I venture to say that the statement made on behalf of the Government as to the appointment of a Committee to consider this question will materially reduce the number of Amendments to the Bill, but I should like to make one suggestion. We must, of course, recognise the enormous experience of hon. Members now sitting on the Merchandise Marks Committee; and, though I think we ought to have a separate Committee to inquire into this question, I would suggest that if the experience of some of the Members of the Merchandise Marks Committee can be brought to bear on the new Committee it would be a distinct advantage.

(5.35.) Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I now rise to move, as an Amendment to this clause, the omission from page 2, line 35, of the words "United Kingdom," in order to substitute the word "England," the object being that the proposed increase in the duties on spirits should not fall on Scotland or Ireland. We say that this increase of the Spirit Duties is unnecessary, unjust, and uncalled for. It is uncalled for because there is no precedent for raising the Spirit Duties at a time when the Budget has shown a surplus. There was a rise in the Spirit Duties five or six years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was Prime Minister, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh was Chancellor of the Exchequer; but at that time there was a deficit, which is not the case now. Again, we say that whisky is the national beverage both of Scotland and Ireland, though in Ireland it is not consumed to such an extent as in Scotland. Still, it is proportionately much more largely consumed in Scotland and Ireland than in England, and, therefore, the duty presses more heavily on the Scotch and Irish than on the English people. Looking at the Return furnished by the Secretary to the Treasury, I find that taking the heads of the Customs and Excise Duties on spirits, together with those on wine and beer, in England, the amount is £20,140,000; in Scotland, £3,805,000; and in Ireland, £3,222,000; the average per head of the population being, in England, 14s.; in Ireland, 13s. 6d. and in Scotland, 18s. 10d. But when we turn our attention to the Excise Returns on spirits alone, we find that England pays 5s. 6d. per head; Ireland, 8s. 6d.; and. Scotland, 14s. per head; while the amount of Excise Duty on spirits retained for consumption in the three countries, as compared with the total amount of duty from all sources, is 31 per cent. in England, 65 per cent. in Ireland, and 76 per cent. in Scotland. I would remind the House that when the then Government was defeated on this subject by a majority of 12, in 1885, on the Amendment moved by the present President of the Board of Trade, that Amendment declared— That this House regards the increase proposed by this Bill in the duties levied on beer and spirits as inequitable in the absence of a corresponding addition to the duties on wine, and so forth. How do the right hon. Gentleman and those who supported that Amendment reconcile that proposition with their present attitude in regard to this question?


I may answer that question at once, and the answer is that since then the duty on wine has been increased.

(5.45.) MR. FLYNN

It is hardly necessary to stop to inquire how far the votes and speeches of that time were animated by political and Party considerations, but I find that among those who supported the Amendment denouncing the increase of the Spirit Duties was the hon. Gentleman the sometimes Civil Lord of the Admiralty.


Order, order! The hon. Gentleman should address himself to his own Amendment which proposes to allow the duty in England, but not in Scotland or Ireland.

(5.46.) MR. FLYNN

Every Member of this House is anxious to have your experienced guidance, Sir, in matters relating to the business before the Committees of this House, and I shall not, therefore, go further than to express my surprise that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side can be found supporting the present proposal when they voted against a similar one in 1885. Looking at the question as a whole, we have this undoubted fact before us that the proposed increase of the Spirit Duty is viewed with great disfavour and dislike both in Ireland and Scotland. I think the Government are bound to make out to the satisfaction of the country that this increased duty is required. This they have failed to do, and, therefore, seeing the strong feeling which prevails in Ireland and Scotland against the proposal, I beg to move the Amendment I have placed on the Paper.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 35, to leave out the words "United Kingdom," and insert the word"England."—(Mr. Flynn.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'United Kingdom' stand part of the Clause."

*(5.48.) SIR J. M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)

I think the case is much stronger than it has been put by my hon. Friend, because not only does this increased duty affect England, Ireland, and Scotland unequally, without any corresponding duty being imposed on foreign wines, but between 1885 and now a considerable reduction has been made on the duties on foreign wines.


I must point out to the hon. Member that the Amendment is against the imposition of the new tax in Scotland and Ireland, while it allows it with regard to England; but it is not directed against the tax altogether.


I am endeavouring to show that this additional tax is altogether unjust.


The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to speak against the tax altogether.


I bow to your ruling, Sir, and would therefore now merely point out that the duty on the national beverage of Ireland is as 10s. compared to 1s. 10d. on the alcoholic equivalent in the national beverage of England—beer.

(6.0.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 241; Noes 166.—(Div. List, No. 101.)

(6.12.) MR. FLYNN

The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that the proposal of my hon. Friend (Mr. Blane) would reduce the tax to l–54th of the sum proposed in the Bill, and would, therefore, be a reductio ad absurdum. Perhaps he was not altogether wrong, but he cannot use that argument against the Amendment I now move, as it is of a very moderate character. I trust the Party opposite who say that they put this additional tax on spirits in the interests of temperance really have those interests at heart. If they have I think they will find no difficulty in accepting my proposal, which is to make the new duty 1d. instead of 6d., so as to proceed gradually. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made out no case for the 6d. It is not justified by the state of public finances, for his Budget shows not a deficit, but a large surplus. The Scotch and Irish Members do not consider that a case has been made out for the 6d., and if the motley group who call themselves "Unionists" would only remember that this matter, after all, is really a Scotch and Irish one, and that the proposal of the Government is not necessary, I think they would find no difficulty in agreeing with us. Let the Committee consider what a large proportion of the Revenue on spirits is raised in Ireland and Scotland. We have a Return showing the incidence of taxation, and from that I will extract a few figures for the information of the House. I find that in 1881–1889 the number of gallons of spirits on which the duty was paid in Ireland was 4,826, 352. The proposed increased duty, payable in Ireland upon this—supposing the consumption this year is about the same as last—would be £121,700; but if my Amendment Were adopted that would be reduced five-sixths, leaving the increased revenue at £20,000. That. I maintain, would be a considerable addition to the taxation of Ireland, especially in view of the fact that you propose to put up the money for some years to come. The increase in Scotland under my proposal would be £27,000, which is a large sum to extract from such a poor country. The increase in England under the right hon. Gentleman's proposal amounts to £572,807, a very respectable sum wherewith to commence this experiment. I do not adopt an extravagant view or speak in terms of unqualified censure of the scheme of the Tory Party. They defend this increased charge on broad and general principles, and I go with them to a great extent; but I would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should advance slowly and steadily on the road he wishes to follow that he should begin with an extra impost of 1d. instead of 6d.; then, if he finds it work well, and finds that the people gradually get reconciled to the tax, he will be able to advance by progressive steps. In time the right hon. Gentleman would have no difficulty in getting the whole 6d., but the country would have faced the tax gradually, and we should have had experience in the way in which the money should be applied. I think the Government will be the first to acknowledge the reasonableness of the manner in which we are discussing these various Amendments and clauses, and I would urge on their attention the desirability from every point of view of accepting this proposal. The Chancellor of the Exchequer should forget for the moment that he is a Party man, and should remember only that he is the guardian of the Public Purse. If he does that, I think he will see the advantage of proceeding in this matter by gradual steps.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 37, to leave out the word "sixpence" and insert the words "one penny."—(Mr. Flynn.)

Question, "That the word 'sixpence' stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.

Question proposed, "That Clause 6 stand part of the Bill."

*(6.22.) DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

I have to move the rejection of this clause. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to put a new tax on whisky without putting a new tax on beer. He has repeatedly told us in the course of these discussions that he is imposing a new tax of 3d. on beer, that the extra 3d. was last year put on beer on the understanding that it would be taken off on the earliest possible occasion. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer argues that ho has carried out any such undertaking he is playing with the brewers—he is deceiving them. He is taking off a tax with one hand and putting it on with the other. As a matter of fact, the relative taxation of beer and of spirits is an important factor in the international incidence of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman will not dispute that the relative taxation was arranged as far back as the year 1868, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian raised the duty on spirits to 10s. per gallon. You then had a Malt Tax. That Malt Tax has since been converted into a Beer Tax, intended to be its exact equivalent. The brewers made an outcry on the occasion of the change, saying that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman would mulct them to the tune of some £800,000 a year, and the consequence was a change was made in favour of the brewers' contention. Subsequent experience, however, showed that the remission had been made in consequence of statements which were found to be incorrect, and, consequently, in 1889 the right hon. Gentleman re-imposed the duty on the basis on which it was originally proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and in order that there might be no mistake on the subject his words were quoted last night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). It is clear that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) intended to go back to the original scheme of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. The right hon. Gentleman tells us he imposes this new tax on spirit in order to rectify an unfair advantage which Scotland and Ireland are obtaining at the expense of England, owing to the distribution of the Probate Duties. When, however, the right hon. Gentleman made the allocation of the Probate Duties, he gave us not the smallest reason to think that the arrangement was not to be permanent. As a matter of fact, he anticipated an increase in the Probate Duties, and he put forward that antici- pation as an additional inducement to Local Authorities to accept his scheme. The right hon. Gentleman wants not only to take the increase back from us, but to impose a heavy fine upon us.


I do not take it back. I do not understand the hon. Member.


Well, the right hon. Gentleman does not take it back; but he leaves us a benefit of £56,000 and imposes a new tax, of which we shall have to contribute £76,000 more than we shall receive back, leaving us minus £20,000. The right hon. Gentleman has laid before us a Return which is very ingeniously drawn up so as not to show this. We shall benefit to the extent of ½ per cent. on the Beer Duty; but, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own Return, Scotland is called upon to pay £76,000 a year more than she will receive in connection with the new tax. This, I say, is a grossly unfair proposition. We have nothing to do with the increase in the Probate Duty, as the proportions of that duty were settled three or four years ago, and the right hon. Gentleman knew very well what he was about when he settled that proportion. The right hon. Gentleman challenged us with the alternative suggestion that the respective duties raised in the different countries should be allocated to each country in proportion to the amount obtained from them I should accept the right hon. Gentleman's challenge gladly, because if his suggestion be adopted, Scotland will be £7,000 or £8,000 a year better off than she is now. According to the right hon. Gentleman's Return, while Scotland will only receive out of the Probate Duty a benefit of some £69,000 a year, she will have to pay under the Whisky Duty some £76,000 a year. Of course, the same argument would not apply to Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman knows his offer could not possibly be accepted, inasmuch as we have no right to give up the Probate Duty as fixed. I move the rejection of the clause.

(6.40.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

I hope we shall be allowed an opportunity of discussing this question properly. It is a question greatly affecting Scotland. I have repeatedly challenged the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give us the figures to show what proportion of the Probate Duty is paid by the Metropolis, and England, Scotland, and Ireland respectively. We have the figures with regard to the Income Tax, and it is important we should have those relating to the Probate Duty. In the meantime, I do not wish to repeat the arguments used, but I think this clause will work great injustice to Scotland.


I deny that there is any injustice to Scotland in the allocation of the new tax. What we propose is that we should follow the same principle in dividing this particular tax as we followed in respect to the Probate Duty.


What is required is a division in proportion to the extent to which each country contributes to the tax.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not possibly have picked out a tax which is so unfair to Ireland as the Probate Duty. I deny that the Returns upon which the money has been allocated are fair. Ireland, for instance, gets a less share of money than she would get if the Returns, which yon signed when Secretary to the Treasury, had been adopted.


Order! The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now entering upon the subject of the next clause—the question of the distribution of the money.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not entitled to say that there has been a real increase in the Beer Duty, when it has been proved out of the right hon. Gentleman's own mouth by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton that he has said that the transaction is a mere rectification of the mode of levying the duty.


I have no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will claim the credit of giving Ireland a greater amount than her contribution entitles her to, but I desire to point out that, whatever benefit Ireland derives from some remission of taxation, it is taken from her with the other hand. It is true that in the whole scheme of the right hon. Gentleman Ireland is bene- fited, to some extent, by the reduction in the duty upon tea, but then Ireland will lose in regard to the manufacture of whisky a greater amount than that which she will save by the remission upon the Tea Duty. We shall save by the reduction in the Tea Duty something like £105,000, but the right hon. Gentleman proposes to impose an additional tax of 6d. per proof gallon upon what I may call the native manufacture, namely, whisky. [Mr. JOHNSTON: There is linen.] Yes, but the linen manufacture is confined to one corner of the country, while whisky is manufactured all over the country, even in Belfast. The increase that will accrue to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's next Budget will be something like £100,108, and that will more than counterbalance the benefit we derive from the remission of other taxation. This additional tax is put upon an article that is already overtaxed.

Mr. FORREST FULTON rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but The CHAIRMAN withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Debate resumed.


If the hon. Member makes the same Motion later on—at 12 or 1 o'clock—I do not think the Chairman will oblige the hon. Member.


Order, order!


If the hon Member had been paying attention—


Order, order!

It being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.