HC Deb 12 April 1892 vol 3 cc1255-7

Resolution [11th April] reported. That, instead of the Duty on Wine imposed by 'The Customs (Wine Duty) Act, 1888," there shall be charged and paid the Duty following (that is to say):— Sparkling Wine imported in bottle the gallon two shillings. This Duty is to be paid in addition to the Duty in respect of alcoholic strength payable under 'The Customs Amendment Act, 1886," and without reduction."—(The Chancellor of the Exchequer.)

(3.5.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

On that point I should like to ask for some further information from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am in favour of ad valorem duties, and I think there should be some proportion between the cost of articles and the duties paid by them. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is opposed to ad valorem duties. In the case of the best champagne, for instance, and the best cigars, the duties should be proportionately higher than on the less expensive descriptions. I think the dearer wines and alcohol should pay a greater duty in proportion to the cost, and that this differential duty should entirely disappear.

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

The hon. Gentleman suggests that I am opposed to ad valorem duties. I am not so entirely opposed to the principle of ad valorem duties; but in practice I regret very much my experience shows a difficulty in carrying it out in these particular cases. With regard to wines, the difficulty is in ascertaining the exact value. Some persons say wine ought to be valued at the selling price. What is the selling price of wine? It is extremely difficult on the one hand to ascertain what the price is between the importer and the exporter; and, on the other hand, it is extremely difficult to ascertain the true market value. The hon. Gentleman suggests that the cheaper champagne is chiefly consumed by the middle classes, but I am inclined to think that the cheap wine is to a large extent ultimately sold as a very dear wine. The hon. Gentleman is not right in saying that I am opposed to ad valorem duties; but it has been a source of anxiety to me for a considerable time how to devise the means of charging dear wine a higher duty than the cheaper sort, and so to make the change which he asks me now to make.

(3.7.) MR. CRAIG (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has not found that he has committed what I may call an international blunder in setting up a differential duty which operates chiefly against the French producer. I cannot understand why this champagne should have a higher duty imposed upon it than the Johannisbergs, and the more expensive clarets and burgundies which come into this country. Champagne originally paid half-a-crown, but now, by the operation of the system which the right hon. Gentleman introduced, good champagne pays 5s. and inferior champagne pays 3s. 6d. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot see his way to retrace his foot-steps and go back to the principles of his youth, and adopt Free Trade pure and simple?

(3.8.) MR. GOSCHEN

It is only by the courtesy of the House that I am allowed to answer the hon. Gentleman. I cannot for one moment admit that I made a huge mistake in imposing the duty on champagne. It must be remembered that it was imposed upon a foreign article which is distinctly one of luxury. Four years ago the House declined to allow me to charge higher duties on the sale of Rhine wines and clarets as well. The House thought fit to differ from me on that point; and we may conceive what would have been the result of that higher duty on all these wines from the fact that this duty on champagne has for the last four years running produced £150,000 a year.

Resolution agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Courtney, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Sir J. Gorst.