§ "That in addition to the Duty of Excise payable on and after the first day of July, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five, in respect of beer brewed in the United Kingdom, there shall be charged and levied on and after that day until the first day of July, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-six:—
§ For every thirty-six gallons of worts of a specific gravity of one thousand and fifty-five degrees, the duty of sixpence; and so in proportion for any difference in quantity or gravity."919
The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. HENEAGE:—
To move to leave out all the words after the word 'that,' in order to add 'it is unjust and inexpedient to retain the sixpence additional duty on beer whilst reducing the duty on spirits, inasmuch as it is a tax on home-grown barley, and most injurious to British agriculture in its present depressed condition.'
This Amendment is out of Order. An abstract Resolution is altogether out of Order in Committee of Ways and Means. The second Amendment is also out of Order. The first, which is in Order, stands in the name of Mr. Quilter.
§ MR. E. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
May I ask you, Sir, to give some reason for your ruling? When I put the Amendment upon the Paper I understood that there was a precedent for it.
All Resolutions of this character are out of Order in Committee of Ways and Means. I am acquainted with the precedent to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. That Resolution was not moved in Committee of Ways and Means. The application of that precedent must, moreover, be confined to the special circumstances under which it was allowed, and I would add that it has always been regarded as a very doubtful precedent.
*MR. CUTHBERT QUILTER (Suffolk, Sudbury) rose to move in line 3, after "brewed" to insert—"from substitutes for barley, malt, or hops." He said that he remembered with gratitude the great consideration extended to him last year, when he was obliged to trouble the House with a good many figures bearing on this important subject. He used the word important because this subject concerned the health, and to a certain extent the enjoyment, of many thousands of our labouring population. It was not necessary to say much about beer as an article of food. On that point he should content himself with quoting the words of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, who in his speech on the repeal of the Malt Tax in 1880 described beer as—
A prime convenience, and, even to a great extent, a necessary of life,
and also as—
The standing and staple drink of the people of England.
Then, after stating the grounds upon which the change was proposed, the right hon. Gentleman said, at the close of his brilliant speech, that the policy was recommended to them
By yet more urgent considerations of actual justice as connected with the cultivator of the soil in the situation he at present holds, and under the pressure of the competition to which he is now and is likely to be for a long period of time subjected—possibly for a period even with some increased pressure.
These words were as applicable at the present time as they ever were. The agricultural interest was indeed under the pressure of severe competition, and to all appearances was likely to be under such pressure for a long time to come. He, therefore, submitted that now was not the time to add to the pressure upon agriculturists, and if anything could be done to lighten that pressure he was sure the Committee would be ready to consider a reasonable proposal for that purpose. That was his main object in moving this Amendment. He suggested that by some re-adjustment of the Beer Duty, rendered desirable, he might almost say necessary, by the altered circumstances of the time, the
impost should be placed upon the shoulders of those best able to bear it. He should probably be asked why they should go back upon the compact, which it is alleged was made by the right hon. Member for Midlothian. He was of opinion that, having regard to the altered circumstances of the case, if a compact existed (which he did not admit) they ought to go back upon it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian had no idea, when he gave the
"free mash tun," that the preparation and manufacture of substitutes for malt and hops, would increase to such an alarming extent. Even he could hardly have imagined the wonderful dexterity and ingenuity which had brought so many substitutes into notice and use. Of course there was a difficulty in his (Mr. Quilter's) way—namely, the difficulty of reconciling the benefit of the agricultural classes with the necessities of the national Exchequer. This made him rather anxious not to press upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer any very drastic remedies. He could not believe that his right hon. Friend had not a sneaking fancy for
doing something for our national beverage. He found from an old history of the English nation that Derby, the town which the right hon. Gentleman represented with so much dignity and ability, had in the 16th century a great reputation for its ales, which were spoken of as the "canary of England." That was not in the time of the Planta-ganets; but no doubt there were then very distinguished ancestors of the right hon. Gentleman, who drank the local canary to their heart's content. He was not, however, without hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would meet him in a kindly spirit. The right hon. Gentleman's connection with Derby must have inclined him to be sympathetic when matters of this kind were brought forward. The town of which he was so distinguished a representative had, as early as the 16th century, a great reputation for its Ales. Fuller, in his "Worthies of England," well said—
Now never was the wine of Sarepta better known to the Syrians, that of Chios to the Grecians, of Phalernum to the Latines, than the Canary of Derby to the English thereabout.
This was after the time of the Plantagenets, but some of the distinguished ancestors of the right hon. Gentleman doubtless took their fail-share of the local "Nectar." He assured the right hon. Gentleman that he appreciated all his financial difficulties. He proposed to quote a few figures showing the diminshed use of malt in recent years. According to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's estimate for 1894–5 the actual yield of Beer Duty in 1893–4, for Imperial purposes, was £9,536,948, and for local taxation purposes, £397,372, making a total of £9,934,325. At the then current duty of 6s. 3d., this was equal to 31,789,720 barrels. If the same number of barrels had been brewed in 1894–95, the yield at 6s. 9d. would have been£10,729,000 instead of, as estimated, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year, for Imperial purposes, £10,120,000, and for local taxation
account, £392,000, or, in all, £10,512,000. The anticipated deficiency therefore was £217,000. This sum was equal to 643,000 barrels, and if they added the barrels represented by £18,000, the actual deficit on the Estimate—namely, 53,000 barrels, they arrived at a total of 696,000 barrels. At
the Official Standard this represented 1,392,000 bushels of malt. It was clear, therefore, that a very large diminution in the amount of malt used was taking place, but he could not tell how much of it was barley-malt, or how much was malt made from rice, maize, and other articles. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: "Very little."] He was glad to have that assurance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The proper definition of beer was beer made from barley-malt, and hops. That had been the legal definition of beer for hundreds of years, and he believed that before long it would be the legal definition of beer once more. He was not now dealing with the Pure Beer Bill, but he was certain that many Members on both sides of the House would be very grateful if the Government would give them an opportunity of discussing that measure, which had hitherto been so unfortunate in obtaining anything like a good place, and which was so universally popular. Another matter that he desired to bring under the notice of the Committee to support his case was the amount of sugar used in brewing. From figures which had been compiled with considerable care he found that the total amount of sugar used in brewing in 1856 was l,790,0001b., in 1886, 10,340,0001b.; in 1876, it had made an enormous jump, and was 98,000,0001b.; in 1886 it had increased to 146,000,0001b.; in 1893 it rose to 237,000,0001b.; and in 1894 it reached the gigantic total of 245,731,4321b. That, he thought, justified the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian of the very large increase in the use of sugar that would probably take place. He had some other interesting figures as to the number of breweries for sale, and the curious tendency of that estimable class of men to disappear from off the face of the earth. The competition that went on seemed to be working off the small brewers. He noticed a smile on the countenance of the Member for Cockermouth, but he was sure the hon. Baronet was not smiling at the disappearance of the small men, for the hon. Gentleman would agree with him that it was not an unmixed advantage that everything should fall into the hands of huge corporations, or that the opportunities for the exercise
of individual energy should diminish. ["Hear, hear."] In 1853 there were 45,294 brewers and 7,805 maltsters; in 1873 only 29,969 brewers and 4,977 maltsters; in 1893, 10,143 brewers; and in 1894 even that amount had been reduced to 9,240, while, of course, maltsters no longer existed to any extent. He had some interesting returns showing the proportion of malt and sugar used by various brewers, whom he would divide into three classes. He most respectfully asked the attention of the Committee to these figures, because he thought they went very far to prove his case. In 1882 there were two firms in the United Kingdom—he would call them the "Large" brewers—who brewed over 800,000 barrels each, and they used on the average 576 bushels of malt to the cwt. of sugar. In 1893 they only used 350 bushels of malt, and in 1894 they used 358 bushels to the same quantity of sugar. The House would agree that they brewed what might almost be called pure beer, the proportion of sugar being so infinitesimal. He would ask whether there was any quicker way to wealth, magnitude of business, or high honour than the brewing of pure beer. The loss to the House by the removal to another and, up to the present, more serene atmosphere of those to whom he referred had been very great, and he sometimes doubted whether it would be possible much longer to retain within the precincts of the House such distinguished members of the brewing profession as the Member for Bedford and the Member for Wimbledon. They had only to follow the example of the illustrious men to whom he had alluded, and the same disaster would fall upon the House as had occurred when they lost those distinguished persons. The brewers who brewed over 1,000 barrels a year he would call "medium" brewers. Of these there were in 1882, 2,108, and they used to the cwt. of sugar, on an average, 39 bushels of malt; in 1893, 1,834 brewers used an average of only 22½ bushels; and in 1894, 1,748 used the still smaller proportion of 21 bushels to the same quantity of sugar. The "small" brewers, brewing under 1,000 barrels a year, in 1882 numbered 14,499, and they used an average of 165 bushels; in 1893 they numbered 8,307,and used only 94 bushels; and in 1894 the number of brewers had
fallen to 7,490, and the ratio of malt used was 100 bushels per cwt. of sugar. Summarising these figures, it would be found that in 1882 the brewers, numbering in all 16,609, used an average quantity of 42 bushels of malt; in 1893 they had decreased in number to 10,143, and they used an average of only 26 bushels; and in 1894 the number had fallen to 9,240, and the average quantity of malt used to 25 bushels per cwt. of sugar. Another thing he wished to mention was the depreciation in the specific gravity of beer. There was was no doubt that they did not get anything like as much for their money as they used to do. The real stuff there was steadily diminishing. At a brewery in East Anglia, the specific gravity of the beer sold in 1879 (before the alteration in the Duty) at 1s. per gallon, was precisely the same as that now sold at 1s. 4d. per gallon, and that was by no means an isolated case. Although the alteration of the malt tax to a Beer Duty might have been a great benefit to the brewers and the chemists, the farmer was being ruined day by day, becoming bankrupt and frequently committing suicide. [Laughter.] That was not a laughing matter, and he hoped the House would treat it seriously. He represented 60 miles of agricultural country, and he could say that during last winter hardly a fortnight passed without disclosing some sad case of ruin brought about by the terrible condition of agriculture. He was sure that the Chancellor of the. Exchequer would agree with him that it was hardly possible for the position of the farmer in East Anglia to be worse than it is now, but if in some way they could enhance the price of barley, which was his best product, he might still be able to pay his way. He commended this proposal from a temperance standpoint. The miseries brought about by drinking were due to the drinking of spirits rather than of beer. He was afraid the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not familiar with Hogarth, or else he would have hesitated before exempting spirits from extra duty. Hogarth, perhaps the most accurate, and certainly the most powerful delineator of mankind's virtues and vices that the world has ever seen, has left us striking illustrations of the advantages attending the use of our
national beverage, and the misery and want brought about by the drinking of spirits. Of beer he wrote:—
Genius of Health! thy grateful taste Rivals the cup of Jove, And warms each English generous breast With liberty and love.
What was proposed by the Amendment was virtually a readjustment of duty; he thought that this extra duty should be levied upon beer brewed with other ingredients, than barley-malt and hops. He had to prove, if he could, that this was a reasonable and practicable proposal. He had in his hand one of the forms used by Somerset House; and any Member could see from it that by the simple addition of a column or two it would be easy for the brewers to record for the information of the Inland Revenue, the quantity of materials other than barley-malt and hops used in brewing.
That would facilitate differentiation in the duty, relieving a suffering industry and putting the duty upon the use of substituted materials. A readjustment of duty on the lines indicated was not a thing radically new. There had been variations in the duty on sugar used in brewing. The excise duty per cwt. was 3s. 6d. in 1869–70; 7s. 6d. in 1870–3; 9s. 6d. in 1873–4; and 11s. 6d. from 1874 to the repeal of the duty in 1880. At Somerset House, therefore, there was plenty of precedent for the variation. He asked for a readjustment in favour of English barley; and he thought that the proposal should meet this year with a sympathetic response from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in consequence of the falling-off in the duty, evidently on account of the materials used. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman had been considering whether readjustment could be effected without detriment to the revenue and with benefit to agriculture. Beer with a good specific gravity was more refreshing than anything else to the wearied agricultural labourer, aye, and to the workman in the town too. The agricultural labourer worked hard, his outlook was nothing, and his life often dull and cheerless. When he returned home at night, what was he to drink? A glass of good beer would do him more good than anything else. Ask the first man you met in the street, and
you would find he cared more about pure been than about the Home Rule Bill. [Mr. BROADHURST here spoke to the hon. Member.] He was reminded that he had not yet given the names of the articles that were used in the manufacture of beer. A long list continually appeared in the trade journals, but he would read only some of them. One was called D. G. C., or dextrinous grain caramel; another was Premier caramel chips—he did not know whether the Prime Minister had taken any of them; another he imagined the Chancellor of the Exchequer had sometimes taken a dose of before summing up their Debates—it was Ecumin, or foaming powder—[Great laughter]; another which seemed a great favourite was named Aphrodite. A still later list showed ingenuity in the invention of substances and of names for them, such as Amilona maize malt, Dextro-diastatic malt, and Dexvert, which was the latest brewing speciality. Our American cousins, too, had come on the scene, and were sending maize grits, rice grits, etc., and the latest surprises were caramelose-sucrosan, and antinonnin. He must confess to a feeling of regret that the House of Commons would not pay more attention to this question of the purity of the national beverage, which the right hon. Member for Midlothian had so well described, although it had been ready to spend time in legislating against margarine, chicory, and other products. He seriously asked the House of Commons to consider whether something could not be done for the drink of the people whilst diminishing the burdens upon agriculture, particularly in that part of the country which he represented. In conclusion, he would remind the House of the tribute paid by the poet John Gay to the national beverage:—
Inspired by thee the warrior fights, The lover woos, the poet writes And pens the pleasing tale; And still in Britain's Isle confest Nought animates the patriot's breast Like generous, nappy ale.
§ [Cheers and laughter.]
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
If my hon. Friend thinks my studies of the letterpress of Hogarth 927 have been imperfect, I am quite willing to accept him as an able witness to both Bacchus and Ceres. I was sorry to hear him speak disrespectfully of the mixture Aphrodite, because it has always been supposed that these substances rather went together; and I should have thought that that final quotation of my hon. Friend would have prevented him from attacking that particular mixture. The hon. Member has endeavoured to intimidate us by a threat which, I confess, would have had great force with me; he has held up the condition of the brewers as being one of such magnificence that we could not long hope to retain them in this inferior Assembly. In fact, my hon. Friend regards them as the ancient Romans did their Emperor, who was only waiting his apotheosis, and would only remain on earth a short time before his removal to the skies. Seeing the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Bonsor) opposite, I may say of him as Horace did of Augustus, we hope that that may be postponed to a late period, and that we may keep him long with us. I am always delighted to see him, though not delighted to see him in the opposite Lobby. Really, the labouring oar of the defence to the speech we have just listened to rests with the hon. Member for Wimbledon rather than with me, because the hon. Member is one of the great brewers who have been alluded to by the hon. Member for Suffolk. I have a practical objection to the Amendment, and that is that it will not allow the tax to yield any money at all, because four-fifths of the beer is brewed from malt and hops. [An HON. MEMBER: "Four-fifths?"] Yes, those are the figures given me by the Inland Revenue. So the proposal of the hon. Member is to exempt four-fifths of the beer that is brewed from the tax. My £500,000—or, if taken for the whole year, nearly £800,000—would in that case be gone; and that would leave me with a deficit which it is the object of these proposals to fill up. Worse than that, the proposal would involve an enormously expensive system of supervision in every brewery in the country. It was the object of the reforms of the right hon. Member for Midlothian to relieve brewers from a great deal of this expensive supervision, which was very irksome and burdensome 928 to them. If you are to make the proposed change you must, as the Inland Revenue inform me, revise the whole of your system, reintroduce supervision in a far worse form and one more injurious to the manufacture than ever existed before, and go to an expense a great deal more than the remaining fifth which will be yielded by the duty. Therefore, the result would be to destroy the yield from the duty altogether; so that there being a deficit, the hon. Member proposes to leave no method at all of meeting that deficit. What is his charge against the brewers? He says they have deteriorated the article by diminishing the healthy gravity which constituted the better quality of beer 40 years ago. My hon. Friend is looking back to the days, as he thinks, of stronger and better men who drank stronger and better ale. But in these later days the growing demand has been for lighter and brighter beer, and that demand has led to a great alteration in manufacture and to the increased employment of the chemist. It is really that, and not any question of taxation, which is the cause of the change which has taken place in the gravity of a large quantity of the beer that is now consumed. My hon. Friend has said something about large and small brewers, but his own proposal is the one which is most injurious to the smaller class of brewers; there is no doubt about that. The smaller class consists of the men who, from imperfect machinery and want of capital, extract less than do others with better resources from a certain quantity of material, whether it be malt or anything else. So that it is what I may call the medium brewers and the smaller brewers who use the larger quantity of the cheaper material as compared with the greater brewers. What would be done by this Amendment would be to place a tax upon the smaller and suffering brewers and the medium brewers who use the greater proportion of these substituted materials and to exempt the greater brewers—the Basses, the Allsopps, the Guinnesses, and the great London brewers.
§ *MR. CUTHBERT QUILTER
said, the information which had been furnished to him did not quite bear out the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that it was the small brewers who were using substitutes more and more. 929 He was assured that in the main genuine articles were being used by the smaller brewers.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
That is not altogether in accordance with my information; but it is not material to my point at present. I suppose it would not be affirmed on behalf of Messrs. Guinness, Allsopp, or Bass, that they were using substitutes, except so far as is necessary for the purpose of producing a finer and brighter quality of beer. I understand that in most cases sugar is the material used for priming; it is this introduction of a certain amount of sugar which makes the beer brighter and more palatable just before delivery. That is a process which seems to suit the customer as well as the manufacturer, and the process is similar to that to which champagne is subjected, as a certain amount of sugar produces the effervescence and brightness of champagne. This is one of the reasons why the use of sugar has increased. Therefore, I say, with regard to the second class of brewers this tax would fall upon them, while upon the first-class brewers it would not fall at all, because, owing to the small quantities of substitutes they employ, they would practically escape. Therefore the Amendment proposes a differentiation in favour of the great brewers. A great deal is said about a tax upon home grown barley. But, so long as barley is used, there is no inquiry whether it is grown in Suffolk, or Norfolk, or whether it is Russian or Egyptian. All that you have to do, according to the proposal of my hon. Friend, is to employ the cheapest foreign barley you can get, and then you escape the tax altogether. Therefore my hon. Friend does nothing at all for home-grown barley. From the cheap foreign barley you may brew much worse beer than is produced by those who employ n certain amount of sugar in the manufacture. What really lowers the price of English barley is not the duty upon beer, but it is the price of imported barley. If you were to take the duty off beer altogether, the brewer would not give a penny more for English barley, because the price of English barley is ruled by the price of imported barley, and all that would happen would be that the brewer would put the whole produce if the duty in his pocket and the change 930 would not alter the sale price of English barley at all. This argument was used against the right hon. Gentleman opposite in 1890 when he proposed the extra 3d. duty on beer, and the right hon. Gentleman then maintained that there was nothing in the pretence that the duty would fall on the grower of barley. I do not feel that it is my special duty to defend the brewers, except so far as they are one of my principal customers. After all, even to the, brewers justice is due. What is the position of the brewers with regard to the materials they employ? Let us remember what took place in 1880. The agricultural interest had for many years demanded the repeal of the malt-tax and the substitution of the beer-tax. They insisted upon it, and at last a Liberal Government—which is always willing to oblige everybody—granted the prayer, or rather yielded to the menaces, of the agricultural interest. But so jealous were the representatives of the agricultural interest, that the right hon. Member for Sleaford got up and denounced the Member for Midlothian, and said:—You deserve no credit for this, for you have stolen my proposal.Well, the malt tax was repealed and the beer duty was imposed. When that, change was effected the right hon. Member for Midlothian founded a system, which has since been very little altered, described in the phrase "free mash"—that was to say, the brewer was allowed to use exactly what materials he chose, and upon that concession to him he was charged a higher rate. The right hon. Member for Midlothian represented the higher charge at that time on the brewers as between £300,000 and £400,000; but, of course, at the present time the sum was much larger, and he then said that was a sum which they ought to pay for being relieved from the inconveniences imposed by the then existing regulations which had fallen upon the maltster. That was a bargain which, if you are prepared to break it, will necessitate the reconsideration of the whole system of the beer duty. I hope the House will allow me to say that, in dealing with questions of taxation, I always desire to look at the 931 matter from the point of view of justice to the parties concerned, and I ask the House to consider whether the proposals I am now placing before the House are not founded on justice. Sugar, instead of malt and hops exclusively, was used before 1880, but not to the extent it is now. The figures for the year before 1880 were 1,120,000 cwt. The right hon. Member for Midlothian said in 1880, "The artificial preference thus given—"the preference to malt and hops exclusively—is a serious evil to import into trade. There is nothing so mischievous as for the Legislature to point out, either by positive enactment or fiscal arrangements, to the manufacturer or trader of this country some particular line in which he must conduct his operations, or else that he must be content with a heavy fine if he deviates from it. Twenty years ago—he went on to say—the belief was that paper was a commodity that could not be made from anything but rags, and those who recollect the paper duty controversy will recollect the plaintive tones in which it was represented how every country would cherish its own stock of rags, would not part with this precious commodity to any other country that wanted it; how, in fact, rags were exalted to an elevation in the estimation of mankind which they never enjoyed before and never since. As the House well remembers, absolute ruin was to be the consequence of the removal of the paper duty and of the scarcity of rags. The paper duty was removed; The paper manufacturers who said they would be ruined are making nearly twice the amount of paper which they made before. The word 'rags' is never heard in the Debates of this House.There is not the slightest doubt as to the contract which was the basis of the repeal of the malt tax. I looked to see whether the right hon. Member for Sleaford ever demurred to the arrangement by which brewers were to be allowed to use other materials, 1,120,000 cwt. of sugar being used, as everybody expected this material would be used, to a larger extent than others, but he never demurred for a single moment. I am speaking on information given me by the Inland Revenue, and I say that if the Amendment were carried it would have the effect of subjecting the trade to an amount of Excise supervision and interference ten times greater than that which existed in former years—a process which would be extremely offensive to the Inland Revenue and extremely irksome and injurious to the brewers. 932 These are very strong reasons against the proposal, besides which there is a fiscal objection. The hon. Member is only going to apply the principle of pure beer to the extra 6d., leaving the remaining 6s. 3d. to be raised on impure beer.
§ *MR. QUILTER
stated that he desired to put an Amendment on the Paper to give effect to the view now expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, but was unable to do so by the Forms of the House.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am only dealing with the Amendment as it stands, but the method suggested by the hon. Member is the worst that could possibly be adopted. No doubt the pure beer Bill prohibits the use of any other material for the manufacture of beer than malt and hops. But an attempt to deal with the duties on a differential basis with respect to the employment of substitutes for malt and hops would be most injurious to the Revenue and would disorganise the whole trade. As I have already endeavoured to show, if the Amendment of the hon. Member were to be adopted, a large proportion of the beer brewed would escape the duty altogether as far as the Revenue is concerned, because the reduced amount received would be entirely swallowed up in the extra expenses of the collection. I appeal confidently on this point to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's. I have already endeavoured to show the House that the proposal of the hon. Member would make no difference whatever to the English barley growers. In the course of the discussion on the Budget of 1890 the right hon. Gentleman said that it was possible that for a certain time the brewers might suffer from the imposition of the Beer Duty, but that the barley growers would not suffer at all. I hope, therefore, that in dealing with this matter the House will not be under any misapprehension as to the effect that, the Amendment would have upon the barley growers of the country. It has been said that a great deal of bad stuff has been used in the manufacture of beer, but in my opinion that statement is not correct. It is not disputed that brewers do not put deleterious articles into their beer, although no doubt they use considerable 933 and increasing quantities of sugar in its manufacture. For the reasons I have already given I believe that sugar is a good material for brewing the lighter kinds of beer, and I am told that besides sugar other substitutes for malt and hops are rarely used. I am informed that in addition to sugar a certain quantity of maize is used, but there is nothing unwholesome in that grain. The real truth is that brewers are bound to brew a beer which their countrymen want. There can be no question at all about that. When the 6d. extra duty was imposed last year I was told that the quality of the beer might be affected, not in consequence of the use of worse materials for its manufacture, but because the element of water might predominate in the beer. The information that we have obtained on the subject leads us to believe that for a certain time the addition of water to the beer was tried, but that the experiment was found not to answer. The result, therefore, has been that, notwithstanding the imposition of the extra duty, the brewers brew quite as good beer as they did before the tax was imposed. I know that it is supposed by some people that I have destroyed the brewing interest by the imposition of the extra duty, but I repudiate that charge altogether. The figures which I have before me show that the advantage which the brewers have derived from the fall in the cost of the materials used in the manufacture of beer, or which they will derive in the future from the repent fall in the price of those materials is upwards of £2,000,000 a year. Of that sum the public revenue has received some £500,000, while the other £1,500,000 remains in the pockets of the brewers. I think, therefore, that the position of the brewers in the matter is one that, at least, may be endured. The imposition of this tax, therefore, has not injured the brewers, who can well afford to pay it. I am sure that the brewers will not deny that, in view of the profits which they derived last year, and of the profits which they will make during the present year from the fall in prices of the materials used in the manufacture of beer, the amount of the extra tax has been made good to them several times over. It is for that reason that I have asked the House to renew the extra duty 934 for a single year. In my opinion, the position of the brewers, notwithstanding the imposition of the extra duty, is one of exceptional advantage, and the proposition I have made can be carried into effect without any injury being caused to them. Then, again, the consumer will not suffer in consequence of the renewal of the duty, because, as I have already stated, our information leads us to believe that the qaality of the beer has not fallen in consequence of the imposition of the extra taxation upon the article. Then, as regards the production of beer, I find that the imposition of the extra duty has not affected it in any way. In 1891 the number of barrels of beer produced was 31,300,000; in 1892, it was 31,525,000; in 1893, it was 31,486,000; in 1894, it was 31,789,000; and in 1895, it was 31,385,000. That shows a diminution in the production of some 400,000 barrels, which took place in the course of a single month. Up to February last, the amount of beer brewed was the same as in the previous year, but in that month the production fell off to the extent of some 400,000 in consequence of the frost. I am afraid that I have occupied the attention of the House at somewhat considerable length on this subject, but I think that it was my duty to lay all the facts connected with the matter before it. I think that the proposition of the hon. Member is quite indefensible, because it would prevent the revenue from deriving any benefit whatever from the tax, and would leave the Exchequer in a position in which it would be unable to meet the deficit it has to face; and I do not know that the hon. Member is prepared to propose any other plan by which that deficit can be met. Of course, I know that there is always a difference of opinion with regard to direct, and indirect taxation, and that, a great many people would be very glad if there were no indirect taxation at all. I am quite certain, however, that the right hon. Gentleman my predecessor in office will not agree with those who wish to put an end to indirect taxation. It is, of course, open, to any future Chancellor of the Exchequer to repeal the Beer Duties altogether if the state of the finances of the country permit of that being done. It would cost you 4d. or 6d. on the Income Tax. If you like that 935 change it is one that possibly might be made. I doubt whether it would be profitable to the landed interest or to the Gentlemen who sit opposite. I venture to indicate that an increase of indirect taxation in the future is not likely to take place. If you are going to spend as much money as you spend now—and it is very likely that you are going to spend more—the weight of that expenditure will inevitably fall upon direct taxation and not upon indirect taxation. Therefore, I should advise Gentlemen to think twice and even thrice before they desire to part with this item of indirect taxation. You may say that we are parting with it in regard to the Spirit Duty. That is true. It would not be justifiable for me to levy more taxation than is necessary for the purposes of the public revenue. I had consequently to choose between these two taxes, unless there is somebody who is bold enough to propose some other tax of an indirect character. I cannot take the responsibility. I do not propose it, and I doubt whether anybody in my position would propose a new indirect tax. I remember in 1885, when the Budget of Mr. Childers was brought forward, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol whispered "tea" as a subject for additional taxation, and he was frightened at the echo of his own words, and withdrew them and apologised for them. The right hon. Member for St. George's supported that Budget in the House and out of the House, especially on the ground of in direct taxation. In these circumstances all I have to say to my hon. Friend is that if I had found it in my power to do anything for the relief of the agricultural interest I should have been most happy to do it. If I had had at my disposal that two millions of surplus which has gone in additional expenditure, I might have found myself in a position, to do that which I should be glad to do. But the House and the country are of opinion that that expenditure is desirable, and, therefore, so far from being in a position to grant boons to any interest, I am obliged to perform a duty far less agreeable, and that is to call upon some interests to bear additional burdens. What I have done in this case is to call upon an interest which is a prosperous interest; and I very much doubt whether 936 the hon. Member for Wimbledon will say that the class which he so honourably represents have suffered under the duty that has been imposed in a manner that has been oppressive or injurious to their trade. I am quite sure that it is not the experience of the trade generally. I do not believe, being called upon to ask for a sacrifice from some interest, I could have made a fairer or more reasonable proposal. I do not believe that the proposal will raise any vehement opposition from those upon whom the burden is placed. I am quite sure my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon, representing as he does the great brewers, will not support a proposal the effect of which will be felt principally by the second class or medium brewers. I entirely deny that this tax imposes any additional burden upon the agricultural interest. The price of barley is governed by a totally different consideration—by the price of foreign grain. That being so, I hope the House will not accept the proposal of my hon. Friend, which, from his point of view I have no doubt is a very patriotic proposal, but which, from a financial point of view, is entirely unworkable, which, from its very character could not be administered by the Inland Revenue, and which, in its result, would not give to the Exchequer that which is necessary to meet the national expenditure.
§ MR. HENRY CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said, the right hon. Gentleman had again assured the House of his deep sympathy with the agricultural interest. But their experience of the right hon. Gentleman's sympathy was, that it was strictly limited to barren words. If the right hon. Gentleman had not found himself in a position, since he had been in office, to give some assistance to the agricultural interest, they might, at any rate, have expected him to abstain from inflicting on that interest, in the hour of its deepest distress, the additional and crushing taxation which was the crowning glory of his Budget of last year. The right hon. Gentleman, greatly to his surprise, had stated that the Motion would do absolutely nothing for homegrown barley, because of the immense imports of foreign barley. But, unless he was totally misinformed, the great bulk of the Russian barley imported into this country was unfit for, and was not 937 used for brewing. He thought he would he able to show that the effect of this Motion and of other proposals would be largely to promote the use of barley in brewing, and if that were so, although it might promote the use of foreign as well as home-grown barley, the price of all kinds would be affected. If the right hon. Gentleman had any doubt on that point, and if he felt inclined to suggest a duty on foreign barley, the agriculturists of this country would not raise any objection. He had come to the deliberate conclusion, after having given to this subject the best consideration in his power, that the additional sixpence which was now imposed on beer would, in the long run, fall upon the producers of barley. What had the brewers said on this point? Only last year the hon. Member for Wimbledon said, that if the House would increase the taxation on beer up to a point at which the brewing interest could not afford to pay it, they would get other ingredients from which to brew, and thus the tax would ultimately fall on the growers of barley. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's reply was, that brewers bought in the cheapest market; but in this case the cheapest market meant substitutes for barley and hops. He desired to submit to the House some information which he had recently received from a very distinguished representative of the brewers. His informant said:—It is not difficult to get figures from individual sources to prove that the increase of the Beer Duty has always brought about a similar increase in the use of sugar, and the consequent decrease in the consumption of barley. A friend has furnished me with the following facts within his own experience:—Up to the year 1880 he used no sugar in brewing. On the conversion of the Malt Tax, with its increase of an equivalent of is. to 2s. 6d. a quarter on barley, he commenced using sugar; the first year he used 5,000 cwt., for the following nine years his consumption of sugar was steady, varying according to the season, but averaging about 5,500 cwt. a year. In 1889, Mr. Goschen added 3d. a barrel to the Beer Tax, or another 1s. a quarter on to barley, and my friend the brewer's consumption jumped at once from 5,500 cwt. to 11,000 cwt. of sugar. From 1889 to 1894, his consumption again remained stationery until the Budget speech of last year. During the last 12 months he has used 17,000 cwt. He informs me his trade is stationery. This absolutely occurred in one brewery; and, no doubt, the Returns to be issued next autumn will show that my friend's experience is not singular, and that the consumption of barley since the late increase has been materially reduced.938 He thought that was a statement which he was justified in submitting to the Committee, because it was a most effective reply to the repeated declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that barley was in no way affected by this tax. As a matter of fact, barley, as they knew from figures which had been quoted over and over again in the House, was superseded by cheaper materials to an enormous extent. They had been told last year by the hon. Member for Wimbledon, in a perfectly straightforward fashion, and with perfect truth, that if the tax was increased the brewers must begin to consider how they were to get it back again. Said the hon. Member:—We cannot alter the price of beer, for we cannot divide it up sufficiently. We must, therefore, give less for our materials; and if we cannot get barley at a price we can afford to pay for it, we must get other things instead.Those were the views of the brewers, and they were borne out to the letter by facts and figures and statistics, and had been quoted in the House over and over again. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer supported those views, for he had admitted that the consumption of sugar in in brewing had gone up.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I would point out that the increase in the use of sugar had gone on steadily before the duty was increased. It did not arise from the increase in the duty, but simply because the brewers found it more advantageous to use sugar in order to accommodate the tastes of their customers.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
thought it was the taste that had to accommodate itself to the duty, and not that the duty had accommodated itself to the taste. What the right hon. Gentleman had said on that point was in direct contradiction to the statement he (Mr. Chaplin) had read to the House from one of the most representative brewers of England.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, they must agree to differ on the point. He could not convince the right hon. Gentleman, and he was quite sure the right hon. Gentle man could not convince him. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had also said that beer made from the substitutes 939 of malt and hops was not deleterious. He wondered how the right hon. Gentleman could have made such a statement after the description given of some of those substitutes by the hon. Member for Sudbury. For his part he was bound to say that, considering the injurious effect which the use of those substitutes had on the growers of barley, and the alarming consequences which must ensue to the consumers of beer made from them, if the hon. Member for Sudbury went to a division he would most certainly support him. He would not enter into the other extraordinary and inconsistent statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said—I cannot do anything of the kind, because it is so unjust to the brewers.The position of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be this: You must not touch the free mash-tub; that is part of the arrangement, but with regard to the other part of the arrangement—the amount of duty to be put upon the brewers—you can touch that as much as you like. More one-sided injustice than that it would be difficult to imagine. But he frankly owned that he, for his part, would prefer to see the question debated upon wider and broader grounds altogether. It was perfectly true that the disadvantages under which barley growers were labouring at the present time, and which he did think the Amendment would have some effect in lessening, wore very largely due to the repeal of the Malt Tax. Upon that point he had no doubt of any sort or kind. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the repeal of the tax had formerly been urged by the representatives of the agricultural interest; and that they had accepted the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian when the Tax was repealed. That was quite true, and he was perfectly willing to make a present to the right hon. Gentleman, of any rhetorical advantage he might gain by that admission. But, unless his memory altogether deceived him, the main argument which had always been used by agriculturists in support of the repeal of the Malt Tax was, that it interfered with them in the use of one of their own products grown on their own land, in a form which they found most advantageous for the feeding of cattle, stock and horses on their farms.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The farmers were relieved of those hindrances before the repeal of the Malt Tax. There were several earlier legislative proposals to remove the difficulty the right hon. Gentleman refers to.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he knew of those legislative attempts to relieve the farmers. But they failed altogether; they were found to be absolutely useless; and the cry for the repeal of the Malt Tax was redoubled, and the Act repealing the tax was passed on the demand that was made by the farmers that they should be allowed to use their own produce in their own way. But it was no part of the programme of the agriculturists at that time that a whole variety of substitutes were to be brought into competition with their barley. That part of the proposals came from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. He acknowledged with great humility and contrition that the evil effects of those proposals were not so immediately apparent to the agricultural party as a whole, as no doubt they were to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, who had forced upon them a most questionable gift. But they soon became apparent afterwards, and there was no doubt in the minds of agriculturists, after a short experience, that the arrangement was most injurious to the growers of English barley. In fact he found—although he had forgotten all about it—that in the year following the repeal of the Malt Tax he moved a Resolution, calling the attention of the House to the injury it had caused, and also calling for a readjustment of the duty. The effect of the Malt Tax on barley was this: As between barley and other materials used for brewing it gave the advantage to barley; and as between different kinds of barley, it undoubtedly gave the advantage to best barley over inferior barley of the same amount, and for this reason: the duty was then charged upon material instead of being charged on the product, as at the present time; and from the same quantity of material, in the case of barley, a greater amount of the saccharine product could be obtained; and again from the same quantity of superior barley a greater amount could be obtained than from the inferior barley. That was a state of things 941 under which barley grown in this country reaped the full advantage of the superior' qualities which Nature in its beneficence had bestowed upon it, but of which it was entirely deprived at present by the conditions under which the Revenue was collected. In his humble opinion, that was the position in which the English barley grower was placed, and that was the manner in which he was affected at the present time. If the Committee would allow him to do so, he desired to make a suggestion to the brewers who, as well as the agriculturists, were concerned in this question. At the present time the tax was charged upon the product, and under that system the substitutes for barley in brewing were benefited to the detriment of barley itself. The duty could be collected, if the Government pleased, either on the material or on the product. As a matter of fact, in some cases the tax was collected on the material. That way undoubtedly favoured barley, and the other way favoured substitutes such as rice and maize. He wanted to know why, if anything else were equal, they should give the preference to materials which were not grown in this country? He therefore put it to the representatives of the brewers whether it would not be well, if at all possible, to revert to the old method of levying the charge on the material instead of on the product, if it could be done without injury to the brewers. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer were correct in his statement, which he doubted, that four-fifths of the beer of this country was made from malt and hops, the charge which he suggested would not be so great as would otherwise be the case. But yet, if such a system were adopted, he was certain it would be a most material help to the agricultural interest, particularly in the districts where the deepest depression prevailed at the present time, and he was also sure that, if it could be done without injury to others, there was not a single Member of the House who would not rejoice at the opportunity of doing so good a work. He could only hope that the proposal which he had ventured to shadow out might be construed in the spirit in which it was offered. He might be asked why he made this proposal now? The obvious answer was that it was because of the deplorable position the agricultural 942 industry was in. Nothing to his mind was more extraordinary or remarkable at the present time than the apparent, apathy and indifference with which this subject was treated, not only in Parliament, but also in the country. And yet the agricultural industry was after all the greatest and chief industry of this country, and it had often been said with great truth, that when the chief industry of any other country was declining and upon the verge, or even within measurable distance of ruin, that country was in great danger of declining itself. The evidence as to the decline of agriculture was accumulating from day to day and becoming overwhelming. He hoped the House would allow him to read two very short extracts upon this subject from men of experience and ability, who had been charged by the Agricultural Commission with the duty of visiting the different districts in England, and who had expressed their opinions in the clearest and most unmistakable manner. He took the Report which was issued only the other day dealing with the counties of Bedford, Huntingdon, and Northampton, and this was what he found stated by Mr. Hunter Pringle:—It is my plain duty, and I do not shrink from it, to advise the Commissioners that if prices do not at once make a very great improvement, the country may be prepared to see thousands of acres of good corn-growing land thrown into grass, and thousands of farm labourers cast into poverty and idleness.''Much more was said on the subject of the labourers in the same Report as striking or even more so than this, but he did not want to unduly delay the House by quoting it. He turned from Northamptonshire, which stood ninth in the list of counties growing barley, and took another county which grew infinitely more, namely, Suffolk. A witness from Suffolk said, that—The land that is rapidly going out of cultivation would be kept under the plough if the price of barley were not kept down. Barley is the staple product of all the best land in Suffolk.In his Report, Mr. Arthur Wilson Fox—all of whose Reports showed that he was a man of great ability and deserving of the greatest credit—thus concluded his observations:—I have had the opportunity of reporting to the Royal Commission on counties widely dissimilar in character, and in which the agricultural depression has made its mark in varying 943 degrees, namely, the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. And having hart this varied experience, I say, after an exhaustive inquiry in Suffolk, and with no desire to paint the picture blacker than it is, that agriculture in that county is well nigh strangled.He could heap up an accumulation of evidence of this character from numerous districts and counties in England, but he thought he had said enough on this point. It was upon these grounds that he had taken upon himself to make this suggestion to the House, because the Committee might be assured that, if it were possible to do anything in this direction which would by legitimate means promote the use and growth and improve the price of barley in England at the present time, they would be doing something more materially effective for the interests—not only of the owners of land or farmers, but still more of that labouring population who lived by the plough and by the cultivation of the soil, than by any other means which he believed at present it would be possible to devise. And surely it was a modest and reasonable request to make. All he asked for was nothing but a simple re-adjustment of a single duty, the object of which was to promote the larger use of barley and hops in the brewing of beer in this country, the effect of which would be to raise, without increasing, their necessary revenue in a manner more beneficial to the interests of that great industry than that by which that revenue was raised at the present moment. He could only conclude by saying if this task were attempted with a real, a serious, and an earnest desire to achieve that object, he could and would not believe it was beyond the power, the ability, and the genius of an English Government to accomplish it.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)
in supporting the Amendment, said, he desired to deal with the subject from the point of view of an agricultural Member. In the eastern counties they did not in the least agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said that the passing of a Pure Beer Bill, or the carrying of such an Amendment as that of the hon. Member for the Sudbury Division with reference to barley, would not considerably assist the barley growers and relieve them from the pressure of agricultural distress. As to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in the latter part of 944 his speech, they were quite prepared to furnish him with a substitute to choke the deficit to which he alluded, and which would not hurt anybody, but would give universal satisfaction. He should like to have moved the Amendment which stood in his name, but circumstances over which he had no control prevented him doing so. The 5d. in his Amendment, which hon. Members might think rather an eccentric sum was, put there because he was informed by people who knew the forms of the House, that 5d. was in order, but that a larger sum was not. Had it rested with him he should have liked to put it at 5s. He desired also to say he did not hold a brief for the brewers. He was not a brewer himself; he wished he was. He spoke for the South eastern Division of Essex, and there was no part of England where the agricultural distress was greater. In fact, he might consider himself the absolute epitome and incarnation of agricultural distress in the House. In the years he had been in the House he had never seen that agriculture had the slightest chance of being treated as it deserved to be by hon. Members occupying responsible positions on the Front Bench. Irish and Welsh Members got what they insisted on, and, as for Scotland, they were perpetually carrying on Scottish business in the House. Agriculture, however, was always left out in the cold, and this was a criticism which applied to both Governments. He never knew an instance of such political immorality as that, committed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to this Beer Duty. They all knew why the Beer Duty was continued. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the Spirit Duty brought in next to nothing, and that distillers were overtaxed, but he forgot to tell them that the principal reason for the Beer Duty was the votes of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. How did the matter work out? Perhaps hon. Members were not aware that there were something like 6,000,000 acres under barley cultivation in the eastern counties, and that the best customer of the barley grower was the brewer. The brewers were fellow creatures, who must live. And what would they do if the trade was penalised and a duty like this was placed on beer? They would have to lessen, the oust of production, and 945 go to other places, where they could buy cheaper, for their raw material. If they went elsewhere for the raw material, the consequence was that the British barley-grower did not sell what I he had got to sell, and the land which had been under barley cultivation goes out of tillage. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the duty of 6d. on beer had done no harm, and that, on the contrary, the brewers rather liked it, and the public did not get any worse beer. But, surely, to lower the specific gravity of beer simply meant taking the money out of the pocket of the agricultural interest, by discouraging the growth of British barley and encouraging the use of foreign barley and substitutes for it with Greek names. They were told that the Amendment would draw upon the agricultural interest the opposition of the brewing interest. His own idea, however, was—and it was the general feeling in the county he represented that the brewing interest and the agricultural interest ought to stand together and fight shoulder to shoulder against the taxes placed upon them by Chancellors of the Exchequer on one side or the other. Although he was a Free Trader himself, he could not understand hon. Gentlemen opposite, who supported Free Trade principles, allowing farmers to be penalised in every way, and raising not the slightest objection to seeing goods poured into the country which paid no duty and no taxes at all, and which took the bread out of the farmers' mouths. There was a simple method by which the deficit, which would be created by the adoption of the Amendment, could be made up. It was so obvious, that it was almost insulting the intelligence of the House to suggest it. If the right hon. Gentleman accepted it, he would have the votes of the brewers, he would promote the objects of the Temperance Party, and he would please everybody all round. Why did not the Chancellor of the Exchequer put a duty on British wines which were alcoholised to the extent of something like 12 per cent., a great deal more than, port and sherry? These British wines were made wholesale in this country; they poisoned the whole community, and were a fraud on the brewer and the virtuous gin distiller; and so choke off the deficit which the adoption of the Amendment would 946 involve. He was perfectly aware the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a desire to help the agricultural interest, but his platonic desire to do so never came to anything. The agricultural interest might very well say to the right hon. Gentleman:—Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love, But why did you kick me downstairs?Even at the eleventh hour he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to help them.
§ *MR. H. BROADHURST (Leicester)
almost regretted that the hon. Member for the Sudbury Division should have brought forward this Amendment, because if he went to a Division he would drive many hon. Members who were in favour of the Pure Beer Bill into the opposite Lobby, and so misrepresent their position. The statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that at the present time four-fiths of the beer brewed is brewed from malt and hops alone, was a revelation to most hon. Members, and especially if it was true, the necessity for the Pure Beer Bill was largely reduced, and the ground was cut from underneath the feet of the hon. Member for Sudbury. He thought the Committee was bound to accept the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, coming, as it did, from the Inland Revenue officers, who had the means of obtaining information throughout the whole country. Under these circumstances, however much one was inclined to favour the Bill of his hon. Friend, he could not follow him into the Lobby. He was in favour of pure beer, and he could not but think that if they could give encouragement to the home brewing of beer in this country, they would do much, not only to lessen intemperance, but also to improve the price of barley, and so aid the farmers in their present struggle. He lived his home life in a community of farmers, and he would gladly do his utmost to help his neighbours to better their condition, but he felt that their minds were being turned entirely in the wrong direction, for many of the remedies proposed were mere delusions. It would be remembered that the malt tax was repealed at the instance of the farmers and the farmers advocates, who advised them that the repeal would do very little good to the 947 farmers. If the farmers were misled then by their leaders, what guarantee was there that they were not being misled now? The right hon. Member for Sleaford alluded to the possibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer putting a tax upon barley, and said such a tax would be welcomed by all the Members on the Opposition side of the House. But he noticed that the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, did not endorse that proposition, or indicate any assent to it. The fact was there was not one right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench who had the courage to act up to the declaration of his right hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford, except the right hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. James Lowther). He had no doubt that when the Conservative Party returned to Office they would honour themselves by giving a prominent place to the right hon. Member for Thanet, and then the farmers might have some hope. His right hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford held a responsible post in the last Government as Minister for Agriculture; in fact the office was made for him, and he for the office. He meant that there was no man on that side of the House more fitted to hold that office by his knowledge and experience of agriculture than the right hon. Gentleman. But while he had that magnificent majority at his disposal he never raised a single finger of his hand to help agriculture in any way whatever. [Opposition cries of "Oh!" and "The Chancellor of the Exchequer did."] He was not dealing with anything which the Chancellor of the Exchequer did. He was discussing the right hon. Member for Sleaford, and his complaint was that the right hon. Gentleman, who held the great position of Minister of Agriculture for about six years under the late Government, never, during the whole of that time, attempted in any degree to give effect to the suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman had made public that afternoon—namely, that a tax on barley would be welcome. Why had not the right hon. Gentleman the courage to stand up before, instead of deluding his followers and friends with hopes impossible of realisation? No man was the friend of the tenant farmers who led their minds to think 948 that they could obtain relief in Protection, and no Government, in this century or the next, would have the hardihood to propose it.
§ MR. H. T. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
I rise to Order. Is it competent for the hon. Member to discuss Protection upon this Motion? I was prepared to discuss that question, but I was told that I should not be allowed to do so.
§ *MR. BROADHURST,
continuing, said, he wanted to protect the farmers in his part of the country, who might read the speech of the right hon. Member for Sleaford, against the delusion that would be created in their minds that it was possible to put a protective duty on imported goods used in the manufacture of beer, and thus, as was suggested, to better their lot by that policy.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I am sorry I was out of the House when the hon. Member made his remarks about me. I have no recollection whatever of discussing the question of whether it was possible or not possible. That is a matter for Parliament to decide. I merely suggested it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a matter that would be of immense benefit to agriculture.
§ *MR. BROADHURST
said, that he was totally unable to distinguish between what he had said and what the right hon. Gentleman had just stated in a very open manner. He contended that all those speeches and suggestions, whether made in earnest or not, were an injury to the farming industry, and hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen who held responsible positions in past Governments and who would undoubtedly hold them in future Governments, ought not so to delude their farming friends, but should tell them some home truths like the hon. Member for Ramsey had done. He knew the depression in agriculture, and no one acquainted with the agricultural classes—men of honour, sobriety, and integrity—could but sympathise with them in their trouble. Relief must, however, be looked for in an entirely different direction from that indicated by one or two of the speakers that afternoon. For these reasons he should feel it his duty to go into the Lobby against the misleading Motion proposed by the hon. Member for the 949 Sudbury Division (Mr. W. Cuthbert Quilter).
§ *MR. COSMO BONSOR (Surrey, Wimbledon)
said, that he always felt reluctant to enter into these discussions, because hon. Gentlemen appeared to know more about the brewing industry than he did. He should not now intervene but for the remarks of the hon. Member for Essex. He regretted that, on the present occasion, he could not follow his suggestion, and could not vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Sudbury. There were one or two specific reasons why he could not do so. One was because he did not believe that it would be possible to collect the tax at all if it were to be taken off one part of the brewing products, and put on to another part. It would, in his view, be impossible to carry out a preferential tax in the way proposed. Again, he could not vote for the Amendment, because, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed out, it would be an upsetting of the compact made in 1880. He would now pass to the speech of his right hon. Friend, the Member for Sleaford (Mr. Chaplin). The last speaker had absolutely misrepresented his right hon. Friend. He certainly did not understand his right hon. Friend to make any suggestion to put an import tax on foreign articles used in brewing. His right hon. Friend alluded to the fact that the tax was collected in two ways—in some instances, upon the material used in brewing; but, as a rule, in all large breweries, it was collected upon the product; and he suggested that the tax should be shifted so as always to fall on the material used in brewing. His right hon. Friend did not make any particular suggestion as to how that was going to benefit agriculturists, but he gathered that his right hon. Friend wished to give a preference to barley malt used in brewing. For his own part, he did not see why that suggestion should not be taken into most earnest consideration. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that they could not put a tax on materials used in brewing without readjusting the beer tax. He agreed with that statement, and he did not believe that it was possible, by any Amendment, to bring about that re-adjustment. He naturally saw a great many difficulties 950 in the way of re-adjustment, though he did not suppose that those difficulties were greater than those which were pointed out at the time of the change from the malt tax. If a conference on the subject were proposed, and if the House desired to assist the great agricultural industry, he believed he spoke on behalf of nearly every brewer in this country in saving that they, at least, would enter into that conference with an absolutely open mind. He could not vote for the Amendment. He wished to remark, in conclusion, that he was amused at the list of the various articles which his right hon. Friend read out as being used in the manufacture of beer. It was news to him. Some of them were articles he had never heard of in that connection, and he thought he was reading the beautiful names of trade marks which were given to the various rice and maize materials so prevalently offered to brewers throughout the country.
§ *MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
desired, first of all, to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Broadhurst). He could not congratulate the hon. Member on the change that seemed to have come over his opinions since he addressed the electors in Mid Norfolk the other day. There the main stress of his appeal for their franchises in favour of the candidate he was supporting, was that they should go in for a comprehensive scheme for ensuring pure beer. But, when it came to carrying it out in the House, the hon. Member forgot his friends in Mid Norfolk, and occupied himself in abuse of the proposal made by the candidate whom he was sent there to support. The hon. Member's exordium was the most practical part of his speech, in which he recalled the promise that he made to his constituents at Leicester to the effect that he would never desert the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson).
§ *Mr. BROOKFIELD
said he would do so. The speech was delivered by the hon. Member at the Temperance Hall, Leicester, on Monday, April 16, 1894. He would read from the report 951 which appeared in a local Gladstonian paper, The Leicester Daily Mercury. The hon. Member said:—Another question was with reference to the Local Veto Bill. For an answer to that he referred his hearers to the report of the speech made to the deputation of the Licensed Victuallers Association on that afternoon within two minutes of his arrival in Leicester. His vote would be the same in the future as it had been in the past, and he did not, think he had ever voted in a different lobby to Sir Wilfrid Lawson on Temperance or any other subject.
§ *MR. BROOKFIELD
said, he would leave the hon. Member to explain any discrepancy to his constituents and the friends in Mid Norfolk, whom he had deluded as to his attitude on the pure beer question. It might reasonably be asked what precise benefit was likely to accrue to agriculture from this proposal? He thought it might possibly be exaggerated. But there was this to be said for the proposal. They were constantly asked why the agricultural Members did not formulate some plan upon which they were all agreed—upon which unanimity prevailed. Well, he knew of no question of a secondary character upon which such complete harmony prevailed as upon this question of pure beer. Bills had been brought forward on the subject and Committees had reported in favour of the principle; and the advantage of this proposal, from the Government point of view, was that it was one upon which, in the agricultural community, absolute unanimity prevailed. The Government had been blamed for their supposed motive in giving way on the spirit duty, but their motive in doing so was, at all events, intelligible. What was to him unintelligible was their extraordinary dread of doing anything that could conciliate the farming or agricultural population. They seemed to think that the agricultural districts were too hopelessly Conservative ever to be called back into the fold, and certainly recent events might appear to justify that view. But they were in serious straits at the present moment, and if a substantial temptation were offered to the farmers he had some doubt whether they would not give way to it. He could not understand why the whole Party opposite did not unite in passing 952 some such legislation as the hon. Member for Sudbury had adumbrated that day. The real question at issue was the extent to which adulteration took place, and even hon. Members who did not take an extreme view of the matter, would join in denouncing the inaccuracy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he talked about there being such a proportion as four-fifths of beer brewed from malt and hops. The source of information of the right hon. Gentleman was, doubtless, a permanent official, and he imagined the discrepancy in this case had arisen because the right hon. Gentleman had asked what proportion of beer had malt and hops in it; but he led the House to suppose that there was a larger proportion of beer which had nothing but malt and hops in it. He was well aware that the whole case for pure beer might be much exaggerated; so, on the other hand, could the story told of the attitude taken by the hon. Member for the Wimbledon Division be sometimes exaggerated. The brewers had the privilege of stating to the Revenue what was the amount of sugar they used, but even their figures made out that the present system of brewing, which the extra 6d. duty helped to perpetrate, was causing an enormous displacement of agricultural products. It was not scientifically accurate for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the popular taste demanded larger quantities of sugar. He believed the popular taste to be entirely the other way. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to his taste for beer in his early days; but was it not a fact that people of every rank who, forty, or even twenty years ago, were in the habit of drinking beer, now lamented that they were unable to do so? In those bad times he thought it would be a great advantage to agriculture if pure beer was produced and its consumption stimulated. It used to be supposed that brewers would never use more than 30 per cent. of sugar as compared with malt. But some of them in 1894 used as much as 35 per cent. and upwards. One of the largest firms, which used 32.8 per cent. of sugar, used 30,497 cwt. more sugar and 66,578 bushels less malt last year than in the year before; and if that was the evidence supplied by brewers themselves as regarded the direct displacement of malt 953 by sugar alone, what might they fairly infer would be the total displacement of malt and hops by sugar, maize, and rice, and hop substitutes such to quassia.
§ *MR. BROOKFIELD
said, he would not dispute an ascertained fact of that kind, but the Return lately issued relating to brewers' licences, from which he took his figures, showed a very large excess in the use of sugar at the present time over times past. With regard to the adulteration of hops, the Committee which sat at his instance a few years ago, took very startling evidence as to the chemicals used. For instance, the substance quassia, when brewers had strong motives for using something of the kind, rose in price from £5 to £40 a ton. In the same year, camomile rose from 40s. to 120s.; guinea grain from 32s. to 60s. per cwt.; Colombo root from 22s. to 95s., and cheretta from 3d. to 3s. per 1b. The Committee to which he referred, though hostile to the main proposals brought forward by those whom he represented, reported that when materials of that kind were used the brewer should declare that he had used them. He could assure the House that there lurked behind this question, as well as others of a similar kind, a strong feeling on the part of the public that means should be given to people to know the real nature of the article they purchased. The conclusion he had arrived at as to the question of adulteration was, that it was very much a question of locality. In the less populated districts, where the inhabitants were still so primitive in their habits as to drink beer for no other purpose than quenching their thirst, they generally obtained an article which, by some stretch of courtesy, might be called pure beer; but in the densely crowded towns, where they drank for many other reasons, and frequently for no reason at all, they were very rarely supplied with pure beer. It was not a little interesting that that part of the United Kingdom where the purest beer was consumed was certainly Ireland. Scotland came next, and in England the most adulterated kinds were consumed. In Galway, where there was practically no adulteration, the number of bushels of malt used 954 per cwt. of sugar in 1892 was 7,180; in 1894, 6,456. At the same time, in East London, the number was, 18.1 in 1892; and 15.2 last year, per cwt. of sugar. In Birmingham the proportion was only 11.5 bushels of malt per cwt. of sugar in 1892, and also in 1894. So Birmingham had the distinction of brewing the beer with the least amount of malt, with the largest amount of sugar, which did the greatest damage by displacing agricultural products. He believed it was one of the few places in the kingdom where there was a Radical brewer to be found. The proposal involved in the Amendment of his hon. Friend was, that the authorities should have recourse to the principle of taxing the constituent materials of beer instead of the beer itself. The barley-growers of this kingdom were pretty generally agreed that they were shortsighted, as well as selfish, in clamouring for the repeal of the Malt Duty, and certainly the hop-growers were absolutely unanimous in deploring the taking off of the Customs as well as the Excise Duty in 1861. He supported the proposal because he saw in it the stepping-stone to something more important, namely, the discriminating not only in favour of the material which came from a particular interest, but also of that which came from our native country, as distinguished from foreign countries. He believed that support would be accorded to much more drastic proposals than those they were now advocating; certainly those proposals would have the support of the great bulk of the farmers, and, he believed, of labouring men in the most distressed parts of this country. He appealed to the brewers, if there were any in the House at that moment, to re-consider their attitude. At no previous time had agriculture been at such a low ebb, yet never, probably, in the history of the world were the brewers doing such a flourishing trade as now, making, he believed, some 60 per cent. profit. Out of this very large sum they did not propose to take anything, but, on the contrary, to relieve them from some infinitesimal tax, and he thought they might be charitable to their two humble dependents who asked for their assistance. The pure beer question would have to be settled by one Government or another, and he was sure the proposal of his hon. Friend, which he intended to support, furnished a useful basis for 955 an improvement in our whole system of taxation.
§ MR. G. J. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, that three distinct questions had been dealt with in the Debate, the question of pure beer, of agricultural distress, and the fiscal question in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was specially interested. His hon. Friend who had just sat down said he believed that the country generally was in favour of pure beer; there was one person who they knew was not in favour of pure beer, he had pronounced against pure beer, and was more in favour of sugared beer—that was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was not touched by the complaints either of the agriculturists or the beer drinkers, and believed, rightly or wrongly, that the public taste was now in favour of beer that was brewed from sugar rather than from barley.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he did not wish to misrepresent the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman said, however, that it was the public taste which preferred the lighter beer, and he most distinctly argued that the increased consumption of sugar was not due in the slightest degree to any alteration in taxation, but was due to a taste which had developed for these lighter beers. After all that would only be the personal view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it was important as it affected the question as to what had or had not induced that increased use of sugar which the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself acknowledged. There was no more complicated question than that of the effect which the taxation of beer had upon barley, or upon the consumer, or the brewer. The right hon. Gentleman himself had, he understood, come to the conclusion that it was the brewer who paid the tax, and had throughout justified its imposition by the large profits that were made by the brewers. If the brewer paid the tax, and the right hon. Gentleman had insisted upon it, what became of his general appeal to them that it was indirect taxation they would be voting against in voting against 956 this increased duty. He could not call it indirect taxation if the duty was levied upon one particular class. He did not himself lay down absolutely that it was paid by the brewers, but if it was, would the right hon. Gentleman maintain that it was indirect taxation. A great deal had been said as to the degree to which barley was affected by the Tax, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had quoted an opinion which he expressed in 1890 that the Tax did not affect the price of barley. He thought now, however, that evidence was accumulating in support of the view that the price of barley suffered in consequence of the increased duty. He had been informed by a member of a firm of brewers that on the very day when the Chancellor of the Exchequer imposed the additional duty his firm began to use sugar for the first time. Brewers considered that they were entitled to a certain amount of profit, and that, when necessary, that profit should be got out of the quality of their materials, or the price of their materials. When they could not get it out of the price of some materials, they passed from those materials "which cost more to those which cost less—in other words, they passed from barley to sugar, maize, rice, and other ingredients. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that anyone who studied the question for five minutes would see that the duty could not affect the price of barley, because foreign barley competing with British barley would determine the price of the latter. But if the use of sugar should increase and the demand for beer made from barley should fall off that would affect the prices both of the imported and the home-grown article. He had been told by experts that British barley had superior qualities for malting as compared with foreign barley, and, therefore, if there were an increased use of barley for malting, British barley would benefit. In Radnorshire, since the imposition of the extra sixpence the value of barley produced in the county had undergone a change, and barley had not been as saleable as before. He admitted that fiscal necessities might require that the same sum should still be raised from beer as was raised at the present moment, but if that Tax pressed 957 with special severity upon one particular ingredient, why not try some readustment of the Duty which might be expected to produce the same fiscal results? The hon. Member for Wimbledon said that, in his opinion, that would not be an impossible course. That was a very important admission to come from the hon. Member, who also said that every brewer in the country would approach the subject with every desire to ascertain whether, if the duty had to be levied, it could not be so levied as to save agriculture from loss. The important question for consideration was whether this extra Beer Duty was injuring barley, and, if it was, whether the sixpence could not be taken off. The particular Amendment before the Committee he should not be able to support, because it would apparently cause a loss to the Revenue without achieving an adequate result.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
observed that most hon. Gentlemen who had spoken had shunted the Amendment and devoted their attention to other considerations. The suggestions of the right hon. Member for Sleaford for an alteration of the whole scheme of the Beer Duty it was not necessary that he should discuss now, because the right hon. Gentleman's proposal was not that of the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's admitted that he had changed his mind as to the effect of the Duty upon the price of barley. His own opinion had not changed, and he could adduce very strong arguments to show that the right hon. Gentleman's former opinion was the correct one. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman put his present views into practice when he was in office between 1886 and 1892? [Mr. GOSCHEN: "We had not had the experience."] Experience which the right hon. Gentleman thought valuable was apparently only experince gained in Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman said the more sugar was used the more the price of barley was diminished. But if the use of sugar were done away with altogether, what effect would it have on the great reservoir of foreign barley which really ruled the price? The amount of sugar used was so infinitesimal that it did not enter into consideration at all. 958 Foreign barley would always govern the price. The right hon. Gentleman said that nobody who had been responsible, and might be responsible again, for the finances of the country would support an Amendment which would practically leave the Revenue in a debt. The right hon. Gentleman voted last year against every tax that would meet the expenditure of the country in succession. He voted against the Beer Duty, the Spirit Duty, the Death Duties, in fact, against everything. Therefore, he was quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman this year, when a fair opportunity offered, would vote against any tax that would meet the liabilities of the nation. But for the present they had to deal only with the Amendment before the Committee. His hon. Friend the Member for the Sudbury Division had made an interesting and amusing speech, but his arguments did not support the Amendment; and the hon. Member for Rye advocated a duty on foreign barley. That had no bearing on the Amendment, as the Amendment allowed the unlimited use of foreign barley. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that English barley was better brewing material than foreign barley. That was not the opinion of some of the greatest brewers. One of them said to him—We use a large quantity of foreign barley because it has not more sun in itand it was quite likely that barley ripened in Egypt had more saccharine matter in it than English barley in a bad year might have. It had also been argued that if there was no duty brewers would use less sugar. Brewers used sugar and other materials because they were the cheapest and answered their purpose. There was no way of stopping the use of sugar except by prohibiting its use, and by prohibiting the use of any materials other than malt and hops. As regarded the question of hops, he did not see that this Amendment touched it at all. In these circumstances he hoped hon. Members would consider that the Amendment had been sufficiently discussed, and would allow the opinion of the House to be taken upon it.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said, he had been 959 personally associated with a Bill which aimed in the direction of this Amendment, and he was audacious enough to think that all the arguments in favour of the Amendment had not been thoroughly exhausted even now. He therefore desired to address himself to a few of those arguments, which he hoped might have some effect on the minds of the Committee. Some mistake seemed to have arisen as to what the Amendment did not propose, as well as to what it did propose. The Amendment undoubtedly supported the principle of pure beer, and in that connection he must say that he did not quite envy the position of the hon. Member for Leicester, who feared he would misrepresent himself in the Lobby. He had no doubt he would if he did not vote in favour of the Amendment, seeing that he had supported the Pure Beer Bill both in the House and in the country. Several Members who supported Her Majesty's Government had made this very question their battle-horse in their own constituencies, and he would like to know the reason why when they spoke to their particular constituents—[Cries of "Oh!" and "Question!"] If any hon. Members would interrupt him with coherent interruptions he would be glad to deal with them, but incoherent interruptions would not prevent him from saying what he had to say. The Amendment now before the House made it necessary for its supporters to make, good the proposition that the present arrangement did affect the interests of the industry with which he was connected, and he thought he could support that by pointing to the fact that the representatives of the brewing interest had themselves warned the House that the increase in this tax meant a lesser price to the producers of barley. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech this year pointed out that this tax did not fall on the brewers nor upon the consumers. It must fall on somebody, and, therefore, it was not unnatural that the agriculturists should think that some part of it, at all events, fell upon them. They did not pretend to be great financiers, but he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to put himself in the position of the simple-minded agriculturist as faced by facts. What had happened in the quarter ending December, 1893? The 960 average price of barley in England was 29s. 1d. per quarter. In the same quarter of the subsequent year, after the tax had been imposed, the average price was 22s. 7d., or a drop of about 6s. Was it unnatural that the drop should be connected with the tax the right hon. Gentleman had seen fit to impose? There was something more than that to be said. They had also to make out the proposition that this increased tax vitally affected the concerns of agriculture, and agriculturists would note with dissatisfaction that this Debate had gone through without the interposition by word or look of sympathy from the right hon. Gentleman who specially represented agriculture in the House. They would have been better pleased to hear something from him on the subject. The total quantity of malt and corn used by brewers up to the year ending September 30, 1893, was 55,654,000 odd bushels. In 1894, after several months of the tax, that amount had decreased by 878,000 bushels. It would be a low estimate to say that one-half of that was British-grown barley. Assuming that was so, that would be equivalent to a loss of 54,880 quarters of barley. Agriculturists lost by the direct alteration of the tax 54,880 quarters. If the average price of malting barley were taken at 34s. a quarter, there would be a loss to the barley producers of this country of over £93,000, and if the price were taken at 30s. a quarter, the loss would be £82,000. That was a very serious loss that agriculturists had been called upon to bear within the last year, and surely it was not unnatural that they should connect it with the very-large impost the Chancellor of the Exchequer had put upon them. The effect of those figures did not end there. He was perfectly willing to allow that, when they talked of agriculture, they did not wish to limit agriculture to the interest of the owner and the occupier of the land. He wanted to point out another way of looking at the question. To take an acre of barley as producing four quarters would be a low average, but if an acre of barley produced four quarters there would be 13,722 less acres of arable. If, at a common calculation, one labourer was employed to every 25 acres, by throwing 13,722 acres out of cultivation they would displace 548 agricultural labourers; and 961 assuming each man earned 15s. a week, there would be a loss to the agricultural labouring community of £411 a week in wages, or £21,372 a year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed his good intentions towards the agricultural interest in words, but he wished he would do so in actions. The Centre Chamber of Agriculture unanimously recommended the adoption of some such proposal as that contained in the amendment. As for the Party behind the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they flattered the agriculturists of the country; when they wanted their votes, and spurned and despised them afterwards. A step in the direction suggested by the Amendment, if it did no more, would ease the burden under which agriculturists were struggling. They looked forward to the time when the Parliament of this country would recognise it as its first duty to attend to the interests of agriculture, its greatest industry, and not despise it as it was despised by the Party now in power.
§ *MR. QUILTER,
acknowledging the friendly attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and saying that he was more than satisfied with the debate, asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, the suggestions he had made in support of the readjustment of the beer duty had not been read in a friendly spirit by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, as they regarded the suggestions which had been thrown out as bearing directly on the interests of agriculture, on behalf of the agricultural interest he had to say that they must go to a division.
§ Committee divided:—Ayes 230; Noes206.—(Division List, No. 71.)
§ Progress reported.