§ "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, levied, and paid, on and after that 128 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."
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet) rose to move the addition of the words—
Provided that no such additional duty be leviable upon worts made wholly from homegrown barley and hops.
This Amendment would not, he thought, be open to the objection raised to the one he moved on the Second Reading of the Bill. With the view of affording as ample an opportunity as he could for the expression of the views of the House generally, he modified the terms of his former Amendment. In the process of amalgamation and compromise, one word was accidentally omitted, which permitted of a construction being put upon the Amendment which it was certainly not intended by its authors it should bear. He sought to obtain the unanimous consent of the House to a correction of that verbal error, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer elected—and he was within his right—to stand by the status quo, with the result that he was unable to submit his proposal to the judgment of the House. His present Amendment was limited specifically to the additional duty which the Chancellor of the Exchequer sought to renew for the current year, and did not effect the 6s. 3d. which was leviable under the other provisions of the law. There was one omission he felt compelled to make. He need not say it was a most unwilling omission—viz., that of the words—
And that import duties should he imposed upon foreign barley and hops used for brewing purposes.
He would gladly have introduced such a proposal now, but Constitutional practice allowed no Member but a Minister of the Crown to initiate proposals imposing taxation in any form. But he would urge upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the House the desirability of rescuing the revenue from any possible loss by such a method of recoupment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated the other day that those who advocated this policy had rendered themselves responsible for the abolition in toto of all
indirect taxation. Nothing could be further from his mind than such a result He wished to protect owners of property from being plundered for political objects and in a way from which they were protected by the Constitution in more democratic countries; but he did not wish to dry up any source of taxation unless, at the same time, a more fruitful source were provided. The tax, in its present form, undoubtedly operated in an unfair manner on certain home industries. He could not contradict the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement that the use in the manufacture of beer of the various ingredients referred to in discussion had not been the cause of bringing down the price of barley or hops. It was the importation of barley and hops from abroad in large quantities which hat brought down the price. The brewers had a perfect right to use substitutes in the course of their trade, if they admitted that they used substitutes. As to the benefit which he hoped to secure for the country by the principle contained in his Amendment, he would call the attention of the Committee to the admitted fact that under our present system the area of arable land under cultivation had very largely diminished in recent years. In the last quarter of a century, roughly speaking, there had been a diminution of nearly 2,500,000 acres; and that had involved a large displacement of the rural population, constituting a serious national evil. At least 100,000 labourers with their families, or, according to the ordinary statistical methods, 250,000 people in all, had been driven from the rural to the urban districts. Therefore, when he asked the committee to support him in urging upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer a method of raising the beer duty which would lead to the restoration of the rural population to their normal condition, he was entitled to the consideration of his proposal from a broad standpoint. As to barley, there had undoubtedly been a diminution in the last quarter of the century in the area under barley cultivation. It was also true that wheat cultivation had diminished more rapidly. In 1870–71 there were 3,800,000 acres under wheat cultivation, and 2,500,000 acres under barley cultivation; while in 1892–93 there were 2,100,000 acres under wheat cultivation, and 2,200,000 acres under
barley cultivation. Therefore, barley cultivation had overtaken that of wheat in regard to volume, although it had itself shrunk by 300,000 acres. With respect to hops, the figures were different. There had been a continued and large importation of foreign hops; but the fact did not bear so closely on the levying of this duty, though it had an important bearing on the question which he urged upon the House, that the beer duty should be levied in such a manner as to afford encouragement to the growth of English hops. Under a system of rotation it was impossible to confine figures as to the acreage under arable cultivation to one particular crop. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must be well aware of this since he had assumed the rôle of Cincinnatus. He should probably be told that his proposal was Protection, and he would admit that that was the fact. If it were not, he should not have been at the trouble to make the proposal. Anyone who was afraid of Protection might walk out of the House when the Division-bell rang. He wished to provide legitimate protection to the cultivators of barley and hops; and, before long, he hoped to suggest a firmer step in what he believed to be a sound direction. But at that moment he was confining himself to barley and hops, and to the rotation of crops necessarily interwoven with the barley cultivation. It was said:—
What is the use of recommending partial Protection of agricultural products, when protected countries are in a worse plight than England under Free Trade?
He thought that in this respect the Chancellor of the Exchequer had scarcely availed himself of his official opportunities for studying the statistics with regard to the arable cultivation in different countries. During the last few years arable cultivation in England had largely diminished, as a result of our inequitable fiscal system; but abroad a very different story was told. Undoubtedly depression existed to a greater or less extent in every industry and in every country in the world. But there was no shadow of justification for the statement so confidently put forward that the countries where a protective tariff was now in force were in a worse plight with respect to agriculture than
Great Britain was under a Free Trade policy. Of course, it was no use comparing the exporting countries; but in the Board of Agriculture Return it was shown that, in 1891, 1892, and 1893, there had been a steady increase in the acreage under arable cultivation in Austria-Hungary, France and Germany. He called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact, which he thought had not been disputed, that the actual loss suffered by owners of land and cultivators who were brought face to face with this question was enormous. Hundreds of millions had been lost during the last few years, owing to the diminution of rents, the loss of farmer's capital, and the loss of wages suffered by the agricultural population generally. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer was interested in the welfare of the country, he must recognise the enormous national loss created by this loss of purchasing power alone due to the shrinkage of capital caused by agricultural poverty. Those were facts which the Committee would not be justified in passing lightly over, and a re-adjustment of a particular tax in the way he suggested would be a step in the direction of restoring prosperity to agriculture by stopping that general exodus from the land which all must deplore. He did not propose to deprive the right hon. Gentleman of any of the revenue sought to be attained by his Budget; he merely suggested a re-adjustment with the view of obtaining some amount of revenue in a different manner. He would propose that the tax of the extra sixpence per barrel on beer should only apply to worts made of other than home-grown barley and hops. The right hon. Gentleman should recoup himself of the revenue lost by the exemption of home products, by levying an import duty on all articles used in brewing, coming within a certain category imported from abroad. The articles imported from abroad were landed in England in circumstances which made the competition of tin foreigner most unfair as against the heavily rated and heavily taxed home producer. The condition of agriculture in this country had reached a crisis which no words he could use would adequately describe; but, sooner or later, perhaps, a Government might come to Parliament for some great national
measure of relief to rescue our largest national industry from absolute ruin and extinction. He concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, there was always a frankness about the right hon. Gentleman's proposals which made it most agreeable to discuss matters with him. The right hon. Gentleman never concealed what his object was in any proposal he submitted to the House. On the last occasion, however, when a similar proposal was discussed the right hon. Gentleman entered into an alliance with the right hon. Member for Grimsby, who had now left the House, and under that compact the right hon. Gentleman's favourite remedy of protection disappeared from the earlier Amendment, probably in order to satisfy the right hon. Member for Grimsby. The right hon. Gentleman was now fighting under his true colours, and he was glad to meet him in that capacity. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was a small step. That was true; it was a small step to the great policy of restoring protection for the purposes of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman could not, of course, expect him to consent to the proposal contained in his Amendment. An appeal had been made that he should look at the condition of agriculture in foreign countries. If the right hon. Gentlemen would consult the dominant party in Germany—the Agrarian party—he thought it would be found that there was as much dissatisfaction with the condition of agriculture there as existed among many persons with reference to the condition of agriculture in this country. But looking at the Amendment purely from a fiscal point of view, it proposed that the Duty was not to be leviable on worts made from home-grown barley and hops. If the Amendment were to have any effect, there would be less—or perhaps no—foreign barley and hops employed in brewing. But what would become of his revenue? He was to lose £500,000, as far as the right hon. Gentleman could accomplish that object. More than four-fifths of the barley used was now home-grown. Under those circumstances he would lose £400,000; but, if the right hon. Gentleman were successful, he would lose £500,000. More than four-fifths of 133 the barley used was home-grown, and he would therefore lose £400,000. Then his right hon. Friend proposed that he should recoup himself by imposing a duty on foreign barley and hops. His right hon. Friend proposed that this little step should be taken in protection; but he was sorry to tell his right hon. Friend that he must respectfully decline his invitation, and that was so far a reason for not accepting his Amendment. But if that little difficulty were out of the way his right hon. Friend asked that the duty should not be levied on worts made wholly from home-grown barley and hops. But how was the Inland Revenue to ascertain what the worts were made from, and how was the duty to be collected? They would have to appoint excisemen or customs officers to seize hold of every sack of barley landed in this country, and keep watch over it lest any brewer should ever get hold of it and mix it with home-grown barley and then convert it into worts. That would be a very expensive project. He used to be taught that three barleycorns made one inch; but how much throe barleycorns, watched in this manner, would cost he had not calculated. He did not think that, under these circumstances, it would be worth while to levy such a duty on barley and hops. Though he was always sorry to decline proposals made by his hon. Friend, he was afraid he could not accept them in the present instance.
§ *MR. A. M. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
thought they had a right to complain that when questions relating to agricultural interests were being discussed, the Minister for that Department, and who was responsible for it, should be conspicuous by his absence.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
He is not responsible for the tax imposed here. I am responsible upon this matter, and my Colleague ought not to be taxed with his absence.
§ *MR. BROOKFIELD
still thought it was reasonable that the Minister for Agriculture, might show some little interest in this matter, and he might find that there was much to learn from these discussions. He thought it would be more becoming if the, right hon. Gentleman were in his place instead of enjoying himself elsewhere. He had to thank 134 his right hon. Friend the Member for Thanet (Mr. James Lowther) for bringing forward this Amendment, albeit in the light of a forlorn hope, and for having laid down a few plain axioms in favour of the struggling interests which his right hon. Friend and he represented. He thought that the proposals of his right hon. Friend were entitled to more respect than they had received from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If moderate duties—say of 15 per cent.—were levied, the sum of a million or more might be raised with the greatest ease, and it rested with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain how such a tax as this would injure either those engaged in agriculture or the working classes generally. The rate of 12 per cent, as an import duty had some special recommendations, which, he thought, some hon. Gentlemen would feel it hard to find fault with. Twelve per cent, represented about the extent to which British products were unfairly handicapped in the matter of rates and taxes. When people said that the foreigner should pay toll for the use of our markets, they advocated not only what was acceptable to those engaged in agriculture, but what was reasonable in itself. He could not pretend that the hop interest could compare at all in importance with the great barley interest, but as regarded capital invested and employment given to labour, it was certainly one of vast importance. Arable land was fast giving place to permanent pasture, which gave very little employment to labour; but it should always be considered that the employment which the hop interest gave to labour was phenomenal. While 100 acres of arable land gave employment to, perhaps, four men, 100 acres of hops employed all the year round from 35 to 50 men, and, during the hop-picking season, 400 or more; and it was not too much to say that this industry affected some half million of people in all parts of the kingdom. Referring to the alleged difficulty which the Revenue Authorities had in distinguishing between home and foreign grown barley, he asserted that the Revenue and Customs Authorities had been entrusted with duties of this kind, and had never found any great difficulty in carrying them out. But there was also the very simple process of requiring the brewers to make the distinction themselves. 135 Many good reforms of use to the community, and certainly to agriculture, would be accomplished by the simple process of ruling another column or two in their books, and asking the brewers to fill them in in accordance with certain specified terms. His right hon. Friend had met with several difficulties in bring-this matter before the House, but he trusted that he would not be discouraged by the languid interest apparently taken by the Committee, and especially by the Minister for Agriculture, from going to a Division. The present basis of taxation was perilously narrow, and the cry for a free breakfast table might at any time have to be listened to. And in seeking to widen the basis of taxation and to improve its incidence, they should not be deterred by the reflection that they might be incidentally benefiting a distressed industry.
§ MR. H. T. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
said, he did not know that he should have troubled the Committee with any observations on that occasion if there had been any sympathetic response from the Government, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the appeals which had over and over again been made by hon. Members representing the hop counties for some relief to the hop industry. The old stock argument that all imposition of duty must in the end be paid by the consumer could not apply to the case of hops, because, whatever was the price of hops, the price of beer would not be affected at all. Therefore, it could not be said that if a small duty were imposed in this case the consumer would have to pay a single farthing of it. The only reason he could perceive why up to this time no Chancellor of the Exchequer on either side had had the courage to propose this simple act of justice to the hop industry, was the fear that he would be infringing upon that sacred principle, as it was called, of Free Trade—that mischievous policy which had brought the agricultural industry to its present state. They seemed to be afraid of being called Protectionists or Fair Traders. They had hgd the experience of 50 years to show what the effect of this policy had been, but they had learnt nothing, and would not even give the agriculturist a word of sympathetic 136 encouragement in his present distress; nor had hon. Members who represented hop districts received from other Members of the House representing agricultural constituencies that amount of consideration and support, when discussing the hop industry, which they had a right to expect. In the hop counties the industry was one of very great importance. It afforded employment all the year round—entire populations received remunerative employment from it. No one, he was sure, who had not lived in the hop districts could be aware of the great interest taken by the labouring classes in the progress of this industry; how it was to their interest that it should be a growing one, and what a blow it was to them whenever there was a failure of the crop. What was the position of the English hop-grower with regard to the disposal of his hops as compared with that of the foreigner? He was certainly at a great disadvantage. If the English grower happened to have a good crop, more than sufficient to satisfy the demands of his own market, he would naturally turn to the foreign market to dispose of his surplus stock. Let them take the case of America, for instance. If the English hop-grower wished to dispose of his surplus stock in America, he would be met by a prohibitive duty, so that he would be absolutely debarred from disposing of it in that country. On the other hand, the American grower, if he had a surplus stock, would have nothing to do but to send it over to this country, where it would be admitted duty free, and where he could undersell the home grower, who had the further disadvantage of paying rates and taxes from which the foreigner was free. Was that common sense? Was it fair—was it common justice? He knew perfectly well that nothing could be expected from the present Government, or from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had frankly told them that nothing would induce him to entertain the proposal laid before the Committee by his right hon. Friend; but he might express the hope that in the next Administration there would be a Chancellor of the Exchequer who had fully acquainted himself with the nature and conditions of the hop industry, and who might see his way, whatever might be 137 done with regard to barley, to do the hop industry the simple act of justice which was now demanded.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said, he was almost ashamed to obtrude himself on the attention of the Committee, for he could not but be conscious that the material points on the question had been argued again and again, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had met them with full arguments on his side and with the utmost courtesy. But he would ask the Committee to allow him for a moment or two to draw attention to what would be the effect upon an ordinary agricultural mind of the short Debate to which they had listened that afternoon, because, as far as he had been able to gather the figures, a rather curious result would be produced. The agriculturist would have heard, in the first instance, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet that, under the existing conditions of the agricultural industry, 200,000 acres of land usually devoted to the cultivation of barley were no longer so used, and he would know that those acres could have been devoted to any other form of arable cultivation. He would, therefore, argue, in his mind that 200,000 acres of barley ought to produce on an average not less than five quarters per acre, and that this barley ought not to be sold on an average, at less than £8; and that their loss to the barley growing industry on those figures would amount to about £160,000. He (Colonel Kenyon-Slaney) was only arguing now on what would probably be the conclusions the agriculturist would draw from the Debate that afternoon. The agriculturist would then go further and say that every 25 acres of those 200,000 acres placed out of cultivation meant the loss of employment to one agriculture labourer. Thus he would calculate that 8,000 ordinary labourers had been dispossessed of employment by this diminution of cultivation. It could not be supposed that each of those men would be earning less than £40 a year, and thus the loss of employment to 8,000 such men would mean a loss to the agricultural population of £320,000 a year. Then the agriculturist would hear what had fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now he (Colonel Kenyon-Slaney) would here admit that 138 it would be unfair to judge the right hon. Gentleman entirely from what he had said that evening, because the strong arguments which the right hon. Gentleman used on a previous occasion, and naturally did not wish now to repeat, should be borne in mind. But what had the right hon. Gentleman to say? That he looked at the question from a fiscal point of view. He wrapped himself in the robes and virtues of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in that character said he could approach the matter. He said that if this proposal were carried he should have to face a loss to the Revenue of £400,000 or £500,000. But the agriculturist was not a man of quick calculation, or with a special turn for figures, and he would come to this conclusion—the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would lose £400,000 by acceding to this proposal, but taking the loss from the decreased cultivation of barley and the loss of wages, the aggregate loss to the agricultural community under existing conditions was at least £480,000 a year. Therefore, they were in this unhappy position, that the fiscal necessities of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were in direct antagonism to the financial needs of the agricultural community, that the loss entailed on this industry more than counterbalanced the fiscal necessities of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It must be allowed that that was the outcome of the Debate that evening, He wished to remind the Committee that there had been one or two significant admissions made on both sides of the House in the course of their various Debates on this and similar questions. For the first time since he had been a Member of the House he had heard admissions on both sides that it was at least conceivable that a state of things might come about in the country, which would emphatically demand some reconstruction of our fiscal system as being fraught with less evil than that which might be reached under the existing system. He did not wish to pose as an absolute protectionist, but merely to call attention to the fact that hon. Gentlemen, speaking from both sides, had admitted what he had not previously heard—that possibly they might arrive at a condition of things to which some such remedy as that now indicated might almost of necessity have to be applied as 139 the lesser of two evils. His object was to point out that the figures which had been quoted on both sides pointed to a conclusion that would be regarded as having a peculiar significance, and to say how heartily and thoroughly they must all deplore that under any circumstances a sort of alternative should be presented between fiscal necessities and agricultural necessities, and how loth they should be to adopt a fiscal arrangement and reconstruction which seemed to depend for its surplus upon the pockets of that industry which it was generally admitted was most depressed.
§ *MR. CUTHBERT QUILTER (Suffolk, Sudbury)
said, he had gathered from the course of the Debate that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had reaffirmed that evening statements he had previously made, and that therefore he should be in order in referring to them. The statements the Chancellor of the Exchequer made the other day, to which he took exception, were four. The first was as follows:—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.There must be many hon. Members who heard that statement with astonishment. He wanted to know where the Chancellor of the Exchequer got his information? The brewer was not obliged to disclose whether beer was brewed from barley-malt, maize-malt, rice-malt or any other kind of malt or corn. This was what in his Bill he had asked the brewer should be compelled to do. He intended to move for a Return of all brewers using corn or other malt substitutes and the amount used, and for a similar Return with regard to sugar. Since he last spoke he had been enabled to procure the following figures, which went far to prove the great loss in malt and corn and the great gain in sugar. For the period ending 31st of March 1894, there were 6,901,467 quarters of malt and corn, and 1,074,171 quarters of sugar; in 1895 there were 6,796,399 quarters of malt and corn, and 1,102,459 quarters of sugar; thus showing a loss of malt and corn of 100,068 quarters, and a gain of sugar of 28,288 140 quarters. Again, the right hon. Gentleman laid considerable stress on a compact which it was said the right hon. Member for Midlothian made. He said:—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.And he went on to say:—There is not the slightest doubt as to the contract which was the basis of the repeal of the malt tax.If such a compact was entered into, which he denied, he presumed it was not irrevocable. Besides it had been repeatedly broken. For instance, the brewers were promptly stopped in the use of saccharin, as it would interfere seriously with the duty. He would not be in order in going in detail into this question, and, therefore, he contented himself with denying the existence of a compact, and, if any existed, it had been broken two or three times by the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, always to the loss of the farmer. Another practical objection which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made, and one which apparently weighed with the House and the country, had reference to supervision:—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.The proposal involved practically no more supervision at all. The brewer had already to enter the materials he used, but malt and corn were lumped together. They only asked that barley-malt should be entered separately, and another column or so provided for the entry of other materials. The Excise officers would then see at a glance who was brewing from barley-malt only, and the dual duty would be levied accordingly. The brewers were already quite sufficiently supervised to obviate any 141 additional cost for extra supervision. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—No doubt the Pure Beer Bill prohibits the use of any other material for the manufacture of beer than malt and hops.He would point out that this was not so,—his Bill only required a definition of beer, and by requiring the brewers and publicans to declare the materials from which the beer was made, enabling the consumer to know what he was purchasing. He wished to make these answers to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which were as accurate as research could enable him to make them. He apologised to the Committee if he gave them a little too much poetry on the last occasion, and if it was not of the highest class; on the present occasion he would only inflict a few lines upon them:—The poet divine, that cannot reach wine, Because that his money doth oftentimes fail,Will hit on the veine and reach the high straine,If he be but inspired with a pot of good ale.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he could not vote for the Amendment as proposed by his right hon. Friend, but he should have been glad if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could see his way, looking at the circumstances of the last two mouths since the 1st of April, to dispense altogether with the £500,000 which would be raised by the extra duty of 6d. on beer. He submitted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he was not bound to take a more sanguine view of the Estimates of the year than he was able to take when he introduced the Budget, and whether, in short, he did not think this £500,000 would really not be required at all. There were two or three circumstances to which he would call his attention. In the first place he doubted whether the Budget statement sufficiently took into consideration the fact that the present financial year was leap year. Having examined the Estimate with regard to Customs, he could not find—the right hon. Gentleman would correct him if he was wrong—any allowance made for that item. Every day that passed represented an amount of —70,000. If the right hon. Gentleman had not taken the fact into 142 consideration in the case of Customs, he doubted whether he had done it as regards Excise. There, he thought, every day meant £150,000. The two together, with the extra day thrown in, would give the right hon. Gentleman a sum approaching another £250,000. Then he read, as they all read, this morning the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the City on Wednesday night, wherein he pointed to the fact that the revenue from stamps during the six months of this year exceeded last year's by £700,000.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
In six weeks. Well, no doubt a proportion of that £700,000 would belong, naturally, to the six weeks, and represented the increase the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself would expect from the Death Duties. The right hon. Gentleman must see that this was a somewhat abnormal increase, and the facts mentioned must affect the Budget as a whole. If he was right in his contention, that the able advisers of the right hon. Gentleman at the Treasury had not taken into consideration the fact that the present financial year was leap year, and, on the other hand, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer saw a considerably larger amount realised from stamps than he anticipated, it would be a great satisfaction to the growers of barley if the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to announce to the Committee, not as a matter of controversy, but as a concession, which he now saw his way to make, that he would not impose the additional duty on beer. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would make an announcement of that kind, the discussion on the Amendment could be brought to an end, and the announcement would be received by the agricultural interest as a proof that the right hon. Gentleman had been moved by the representations made to him on behalf of that interest.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the right hon. Member for St. George's had referred to the fact that this was Leap Year, and they all knew that in Leap year proposals could be made that would be considered rather extraordinary in ordinary times. To accept the right hon. Gentleman's proposal would not be consistent 143 with his duty. It was the first duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide, the country with an adequate revenue to meet the expenditure that was contemplated. That was the basis of the financial proposals which he had made. No man would impose a duty upon beer if he could help it, for it was well known how much opposition such a proposal was likely to meet with. Nothing but a sense of his duty with reference to the public revenue could have induced him to make that proposal. The right hon. Gentleman said that he would not want the money. Of course, if he could be sure of that, nobody would be more happy than he would be to withdraw the proposal, but he should not feel satisfied in his conscience that he had made that provision for the financial wants of the country which it was his duty to make if he were to withdraw it. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the fact that the yield from the Stamp Duties in the beginning of the financial year had been remarkably large. There were some peculiar circumstances connected with this item of revenue. The mortality, which had been extremely low in 1894, rose in February, 1895, in consequence of the influenza, and the Exchequer was now receiving the proceeds of the influenza, as he had pointed out would be the case. The arrears, in fact, were now coming in. These were exceptional circumstances. In respect of the ordinary stamp duties there had been a continuation of the increase that took place last year. The increase was due to peculiar features in the money market, and he would not be justified in the first six weeks of the financial year in calculating upon a continuation of that state of things during the remainder of the year. To accede to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in the hope of its continuation would be a sort of speculation undertaken in order to obtain temporary popularity. That very afternoon he had had an opportunity of consulting a gentleman, whom the right hon. Gentleman opposite would consider to be the highest authority on fiscal matters, as to whether it would be wise or safe to dispense with this duty, whether they could dispense with it and yet leave a sufficient and adequate provision for the fiscal wants of the country. 144 That gentleman was decidedly of opinion that it would not be safe, and therefore he could not assume the responsibility involved in a step of this kind. He could not try to purchase cheap popularity by taking such a course. The right hon. Gentleman had asked him to grant this exemption as a boon to the agricultural interest. Well, he agreed with the opinion which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed over and over again that this tax did not fall upon the agricultural interest. When the right hon. Gentleman was himself pressed in the same way for a remission of the Beer Duty he stated over and over again that, in his opinion, the tax did not fall upon agriculture. For his part he adhered to that opinion, as he had before explained. An hon. and gallant Gentleman who had spoken had declared that the removal of this duty would restore 200,000 acres of land to the cultivation of barley. He could not understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman's calculation at all. Why, if the duty were taken off, should it be a case of "Heigh, presto!—200,000 acres of land are growing barley again"? The brewers themselves admitted that this duty was paid by them, and very well could they afford to do it. Prices had been in their favour, for they realised four times the amount of the duty out of the cheaper prices of commodities. Therefore, the imposition of this tax was not an oppressive burden upon them, and the removal of it would not benefit the agricultural interest. On the subject of the provision for the financial wants of the year he ought to say that, while the revenue from stamps had advanced since the beginning of the year, the Exchequer was still, in regard to customs and excise, £600,000 in arrear, having regard to the sum received in the early part of last year. It was true that last year there had been a considerable holding back of spirits, and that the sum was swelled in consequence; and, therefore, he did not say that the present state of things was necessarily to continue. But, being in arrear in respect of customs and excise, he did not feel justified in altering the judgment which he had formed as to the provision that must be made to meet the wants of the year.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
, referring to some observations made by the Chancellor of 145 the Exchequer on a former occasion, said, that he had examined the figures and that they proved that the original duty of sixpence led, to a certain extent, to the substitution of sugar for barley. He was also informed that, after the imposition of the second sixpence, brewers who never used sugar before except for refining took to using sugar instead of barley. Therefore, he had come to adopt the opinion that this heavier taxation did affect—it was impossible to say to what extent—the barley-growers. The suggestion which he had made to the right hon. Gentleman that evening was based on the rosy-coloured speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman in the City on Wednesday. He had gathered from that speech that taxes were coming in more rapidly than the right hon. Gentleman had expected they would. He quite admitted, however, that it would be wrong to press the right hon. Gentleman further after what he had said.
§ MR. EDWARD HENEAGE
observed that the brewers said themselves that they did not pay the tax, and were only collectors of it for the Government. The other day, when he stated that neither the brewers nor the maltsters paid it, and that, therefore, it must come out of the pockets of the barley-growers, the Chancellor of the Exchequer interrupted him by interjecting the word "Consumer." But in his Budget speech the right hon. Gentleman said that the consumer did not pay, because the price of beer had not altered. Therefore, apparently, neither the brewers, nor the maltsters, nor the consumers paid the tax and so it must fall on the raw material. He was surprised that on this, the fourth, occasion on which this question had been discussed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should still try to refute the statement, which he thought had been acknowledged, that no matter how beer was taxed, not a penny would come out out of the pockets of the brewers.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 61: Noes, 190.—(Division List, No. 100.)
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.146
§ Clause 6—