HC Deb 02 May 1895 vol 33 cc295-7

I will now proceed to give the Committee some information on the details of the revenue of the past year, which seem particularly worthy of observation. And here I may point out that the comparative statement I am now about to make deals, not with the Exchequer receipts but with the net receipts, which more accurately represent the receipts due to the actual produce of the year. I am dealing now with the net receipts of the year, and I will first speak of the Customs. This head of revenue is specially interesting as affording a symptom of the condition of the mass of the people. The yield of the Customs is dependent rather on the resources of the consumers than on the state of trade—that is to say, upon wages, and not upon profits. The Customs in the past year have yielded £20,139,000 net receipts, which is £440,000, or 2.2 percent., more than in the year 1893–4. This, taken as a whole, is a satisfactory result, and when the particulars are examined it is altogether reassuring. I will take first tea. The yield in money has been £3,587,000, an increase of £37,000 above the estimate, and £94,000 above the receipts of the year 1893–4. In quantity, the increase is 5,650,000lb. in excess of that of last year; and the rate of increase is 2.6 per cent., which is a good deal more than twice as great as the increase of the population. It is a satisfaction to know that, whilst our people at home have the benefit of the increased consumption, our dependencies abroad have the advantage of the profits of production. The teas of India and Ceylon now constitute 86 per cent. of the whole, whilst in 1864 they formed only 3 per cent. of our consumption. And it must also be borne in mind that the much stronger growths of Indian tea, admitted at the same duty, really represent a far larger consumable commodity than corresponding quantities of Chinese growth, and I would ask the Committee to observe this fact, that really the introduction of this stronger infusion at the same duty is, in fact, equivalent to a reduction of the tax, because you get a larger consumable quantity of liquid at the same tax. There is another article, perhaps, still more indicative of the consuming power of the mass of the people. I refer to tobacco. The yield of tobacco in the past year has been £10,416,000, being an excess of £296,000 over the yield of 1893–94, and £136,000 beyond the Estimate. This increase, which amounts to nearly 3 per cent. is probably not to be taken as a normal figure, as the consumption of 1893–94 was no doubt depressed by the long-continued coal strike and other circumstances of depression which made the tobacco revenue of that year practically stagnant. But it will be found that the average annual increase over seven years has been nearly 3 per cent. per annum, which is about three times as great as the increase of population. In 1841 the Tobacco Duty produced about one-seventh of the Customs' receipts; to-day it amounts to considerably more than one-half of that Revenue. The consumption of coffee has been steadily decreasing. In 1885–86, the Revenue from it was £203,000; last year it was only £170,000, compared with 3½ millions derived from tea. Whilst the population has increased by 2½ millions, or 7.8 per cent., the coffee revenue has decreased by 16 per cent. Cocoa, on the other hand, is steadily growing in consumption. In the last year there has been an increase of 3,383,000lbs., as compared with 1893–94, and an improvement of £14,000 in the Revenue. Dried fruits show an increase of £30,000 beyond the figure of the preceding year. These are the articles (representing three-fourths of the Customs' Revenue) which may be fairly taken as indicating the unbroken resources of the large mass of the nation. When we turn, however, to commodities of another description, we find a very different result. As I have indicated on several former occasions, the consumption of wine is constantly on the decrease. The receipt in 1894–95 was £1,144,000, as against £1,210,000 in 1893–94, a fall of £66,000. Since 1875 the quantity has fallen from 17,250,000 gallons to 13,830,000, and in the last year the fall was 250,000 gallons. This is worth mentioning. The quantity of sparkling wine, which stood at 825,000 dozens in 1890, has fallen to 650,000 dozens in the last year.