Motion made, and Question proposed—
That the Duty of Customs now payable on Tea shall continue to be charged, levied, and paid on and after the first day of August, One thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight, Until the first day of August, One thousand
eight hundred and ninety-nine, on the importation thereof into Great Britain or Ireland (that is to say):—Tea . . the pound . . Four Pence."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I should like to raise the question as to whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is acting wisely and rightly in taking sixpence off the tobacco duty, instead of lowering the amount of the tea duty. To that I object. I think the reduction ought to be made in another quarter, and I ask the consideration of the Committee for the question whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer should not have reduced the tea duty instead of the tobacco duty. I shall be in order, I take it, in discussing the amount of the tea duty, and in comparing the respective merits of the policies of reducing the tobacco duty and reducing the tea duty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech dealing with the surplus, to the best of my recollection, gave no sufficient reason at all for making the choice he then made between tobacco and tea. The reason he gave for refusing to reduce the tea duty was that it had often been reduced, whereas the tobacco duty had not been reduced for a long time. That is not a sufficient, reason. He also referred to the large amount of employment given in this country by the tobacco trade, but, so far as that is a reason, it applies equally to a reduction of the tea duty. Speaking more particularly with respect to tea, I need not make the obvious observation that, for a great portion of the community, tea had ceased to be a luxury, whereas tobacco must still be regarded as such. But there is one point not discussed by the House, and that is that, while between tea and tobacco there may be a balance of considerations in other respects, there is absolutely no comparison in one of the most important points, and that is the relations the subjects bear to the industries not of the United Kingdom, but of the Empire. Supposing that the reduction of the tobacco tax goes to the consumer, as the reduction of the tea tax would go to the consumer, and supposing each trade gave employment in this country to the 717 same degree; there is this marked difference, that, whereas, as I understand, tobacco is not cultivated to any extern within the borders of the British Empire, the tea consumed in the United Kingdom is becoming more and more a product of the British Empire. The figures on this point are really of a remarkable character. They have been supplied to me by an authority on the subject, and are well worth the consideration of the Committee. Starting in 1865, when the tea duty was first reduced to 6d. in the pound, I find that of the 100 millions of pounds of tea consumed in the United Kingdom in that year not more than three per cent. came from British territory, the rest being China tea. The figures are, 3,000,000 from the British Empire, 95,000,000 from China. As year by year went on, and in the reduction of the tea duty the proportion changed gradually in favour of British-grown tea, that process received a remarkable acceleration in the next stage in the history of the tea duty—namely, in 1891, when it was reduced to 4d. in the pound. Tear by year China tea, under the lower duty, was being shoved out of the market by tea grown in the British Empire, particularly in India and Ceylon, until in 1897, the last year for which I have any figures, we have this most remarkable and, I think, satisfactory conclusion, that, while the consumption of tea in the United Kingdom has more than doubled since 1865, the proportion between the quantity of tea grown within the British Empire, and in the rest of the world, has changed in a still more remarkable degree. Out of 232 millions of pounds consumed in the United Kingdom in 1897, 211 millions were produced within the British Empire and only 21 millions in China. China, which was sending us 95 millions in 1865, only sent us 21 millions in 1897, and the British Colonies, producing tea which only sent us three millions in 1865, sent us 211 millions in 1897. I do not say that is the result of the reduction of the tea duty—no doubt that had something to do with it—but I believe the lower duty had a most important bearing on the cultivation of tea in British India and Ceylon. There is a most important point to be made from the figures I have quoted, and I ask the attention of honour- 718 able Members to it who devote themselves more particularly to fostering the industries of the British Empire as distinguished from the United Kingdom, some of whom secure opportunities not always legitimate for favouring the industries of the British Empire at the expense of free trade principles, and the interests of the consumer in this country.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
That is a matter of opinion. I do not agree that to show greater preference for Colonial products under all circumstances over other products is a legitimate means of fostering the industries of the Colonies. We have now a choice to make by which we can give a perfectly legitimate preference to one of our Colonial industries over the other parts of the world. The benefit of any reduction in the duty must, of course, in some degree, go to the producer as well as to the consumer, and any reduction in the tea duty would consequently benefit not only the growers, but all employed in the cultivation of tea. If, in making the choice, you reduce the duty on tea, the benefit will fall on the producer who produces tea within the British Empire. I have given the proportion between British-grown tea and foreign-grown tea, and that alone ought to be sufficient to justify the reduction of the tea duty. If that duty is reduced, so much of the reduction as goes to the grower will be a benefit to our fellow subjects in other parts of the Empire, whereas, if we adhere to the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce the duty on tobacco, we will be benefiting very few in the British Empire, as far as persons engaged in the production of tobacco are concerned. I have already given you the figures of the amount of British-grown tea consumed in the United Kingdom. Take India and Ceylon by themselves, and the interest of these great dependencies in this subject may be stated from another point of view, I learn from the authority whom I have already quoted that at the end of 1896 the acreage under tea cultivation 719 had reached the enormous total of 433,000 acres in India, and 320,000 acres in Ceylon. I am also told that in India and Ceylon alone the number of coolies—our own fellow subjects—employed in the cultivation of tea reaches the enormous figure of 900,000. All these natives who have given up their lives to this industry in our own dependencies would benefit by a reduction of the tea duty, whereas no corresponding benefit would be conferred on any large number of British subjects by the reduction of the tobacco tax. I think this is a point which ought to be borne in mind. I have spoken of the enormous advance within the last generation of the tea industry of the British Empire, particularly in India and Ceylon, but I gather from evidence derived from other sources that that industry is extremely susceptible to small variations in the profits. The right honourable Baronet the Member for Wolverhampton is at present Chairman of a Commission which is about to sit, and I imagine some very remarkable evidence will be submitted to it by commercial authorities in India with reference to increasing the value of the rupee by a re-adjustment. I allude to that to show that the tea industry in Ceylon more particularly is extremely susceptible to small variations of profit, and I venture to think that if relief were granted by a reduction of 1½d. or 2d. in the pound it would be a very great advantage to such a susceptible industry. The case for the reduction of the tea duty must, I think, be held to be proved by the evidence I have obtained. There is one other observation I should like to make. We have been dealing with the Far East very recently, and the policy of the "open door;" but, whether it is to be established or not, I think that the interests involved in the opening up of the Chinese Empire, one way or the other, are too strong to be resisted, and we may look forward in future, I imagine, to increased and strenuous opposition on the part of the Chinese tea industry as against the same industry in India and Ceylon. We would, therefore, be helping the enormous tea industry of India and Ceylon, under circumstances which it may become difficult for them to sustain in the future, by now reducing 720 the tea duty. What amount of reduction ought to be made I do not venture to say, but I think 1d. or 1½d. in the pound would easily be within the means of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not know what surplus he has at his disposal, but I think a reduction of 1½d. in the pound should not be beyond his means. At the present moment the reduction of 1d. in the pound involves a loss to the revenue of £1,000,000 sterling a year, apart from the rebatement resulting from increased consumption. Supposing we give this reduction of 1d. or 1½d. we can make certain that the benefit of that reduction goes to the consumer. Can we make certain of that with reference to the reduction of the duty on tobacco? I am speaking in the presence of great financial authorities, and, after all, as it is a theoretic principle that all taxation is to be paid by the consumer, it may be urged that any remission of taxation must also benefit the consumer. But the difficulty about tobacco is that it is sold in such small quantities. The honourable Baronet the Member for Bristol is not here on this occasion, but he could tell us how that is. I imagine he sells every day a very large quantity, not in ounces, but in "screws," costing a penny or less. An enormous weight of tobacco must leave his works daily in the form of "screws." It is difficult to see how a reduction of 6d. in the £ is going to benefit the very small consumer. A reduction of 1d. or 1½d. in the pound in tea would, so far as these superficial difficulties are concerned, be much more likely to reach the consumer, or, at all events, to reach him sooner than the proposed reduction on tobacco. That, however, is a question for financial and economic experts; but, however it may be decided, we have another consideration which cannot be ignored in making the choice we are about to make. Who are the persons who are going to be benefited by the proposed reduction of the tobacco duty? They are a comparatively small, though substantially large, portion of the community as compared with the number of persons concerned in the consumption of tea. I have no figures to go on, and I suppose the Chancellor of the Exchequer has none.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
Nobody can tell except from his own experience. Everybody knows that, as a rule, women do not smoke.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
Some women may smoke, but the personal experience of Members will enable them to decide the question for themselves. My experience is less fortunate than that of honourable Members who are prepared to say that women do smoke. Children do not smoke.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
Again my experience is less fortunate there than that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Many men do not smoke, but most men, women, and children use tea. As far as the relief is concerned, you certainly spread the benefit over a larger area if you give preference to tea instead of tobacco. There is still another development which I do not think I ought to leave out before I sit down, and it—many honourable Members are not, perhaps, so well qualified by experience to speak on this matter—is this: that in such constituencies as I have the honour to represent a vast proportion of the population almost live on tea. It may be a good or a bad thing for them, but tea and bread, and not much of anything else, are the three meals which, I was going to say, 30 per cent. of my constituents have to sustain themselves on. In most manufacturing communities, where there are many women employed, as there are in the constituencies like those I represent, and where they have acquired the taste for tea, you will find that a large number of these people who live by hard work on small wages have tea and bread for breakfast, tea and bread for dinner, and tea and bread for supper. These are the people you ought to have regard to rather than the smokers, although the smokers may be the husbands of some of the 722 women I have mentioned. These are the poor people you ought to have regard to on this occasion rather than to the other. You ought to have regard to it from the point of view as regards the comparative worth of the two industries to the British. Empire, and as regards the facility it affords of transferring the boon to the consumer instead of to the middlemen, and as regards the class that is to be benefited in respect to its numbers. Having regard to all these things, I do venture to submit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that in deciding in this case in favour of tobacco and disregarding a reduction in the duty on tea he has made a mistake, and it is an unfortunate mistake. But it is not too late to rectify it, and I hope this House will place it on record that the duty on tea should be relieved instead of tobacco. I shall have much pleasure, therefore, in supporting this Motion.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I do not dispute the conclusions arrived at by honourable Members, but I think that a much more deep and important consideration underlies the question as to whether the reduction should take place on tobacco or tea, and that is, Sir, that we must remember that it is most important that every section of the community should at least contribute in some way to the great Imperial taxation of the country, and it would be a very evil thing if taxation were so arranged that a large section of the community would practically pay nothing. Now, Sir, it is a fact that we have reduced our subjects of taxation almost to a minimum. We are told that the spirit of temperance and total abstinence is growing very largely. Well, Sir, that is a subject in which everybody is glad to hear of progress, and we should all like to see the number of total abstainers enormously increased; but when we come to consider it from a fiscal point of view, if the duty on tea is practically abolished—which I take it to be the aim and object of the honourable Gentleman who has just spoken—we shall get this state of things, that practically speaking all those who are total abstainers will pay nothing at all towards Imperial taxation, or very little indeed. Now, Sir, I think that would be a very serious state of 723 affairs. Let us look at it in another way. Take the case of a man earning a pound a week—a total abstainer—who consumes say half a pound of tea per week. What does that man pay to the Imperial taxation? Why, he pays the sum of twopence per week to the revenue, that is to say, a tax of fourpence per pound. Now I do not think anybody can say that that is an unreasonable payment for a citizen of this great Empire who has all the advantages and securities that belong to this country. I am sure it would be a very bad system if the fiscal arrangements of the country were so made that anybody or any class of persons could do away altogether by their own method of living with subscribing to the Imperial revenue. That is the reason why I think that it would be a very great mistake to do away with the tax on tea. I know it would be a very popular thing, for it is easy enough on the platform to get popularity by advocating the reduction of any duty. But, at the same time, I agree with reducing the amount of the tax on tobacco, because I think many people really forget that with the very poor tobacco is almost a necessity of life. They might be able to do better with their money, but still the fact remains that amongst the very poor the use of tobacco is, after all, their only luxury, if not a necessity, and I therefore think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was certainly right in selecting this article for the subject of relief from taxation rather than tea. Although I am sure that everybody is glad to see a reduction of taxation, I think from a national and Imperial and social point of view it will be an evil if the subjects of taxation are so arranged that any large section of the community do not pay towards the Imperial revenue. We used to hear it as a Liberal doctrine that taxation and representation should go together, and I think there is a danger in enormously reducing the taxation of any individual who pays very little in proportion to his earnings, and it is an evil in every sense if the reduction is so made that any class is absolutely free from a certain payment to the Imperial taxation.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I should like to say a word or two now, although I do not think this is a fit time to discuss this subject. 724 If we do not have a resolution of this kind we cannot re-enact the tea duties. When we come to the Second Reading of the Bill, that will be the proper time to discuss the whole financial bearing of one particular part. I confess that the Chancellor of the Exchequer treated us very generously. He offered us the other night the choice between tea and tobacco, and he seemed prepared at that time to take it by the voices of the majority, and I think waited for the answer from the House as to which we would prefer. I do not know whether he will be of the same mind when it comes to the discussion on the Second Reading of the Bill. I confess my predilections are, in favour of tea, and not from any of the personal considerations to which the right honourable Gentleman alluded the other night. I am not altogether so impartial as he is on those subjects, and I confess my contributions to the Exchequer under the head of tobacco are much higher than those under the head of tea. But the consideration by which we ought to be governed, I think, is whether we have a power of giving the consumer some relief. There are two questions. First of all it should be given if possible to the largest class of consumer, and, secondly, that you should have the greatest certainty of the reduction getting through to the consumer. I have not the smallest doubt that there are a far larger number of people who consume tea than there are who consume tobacco. My personal experience does not entirely agree with that of my honourable and learned Friend the Member for Dundee that ladies do not smoke; certainly that is contrary to my own personal observation. But at the same time if you take family by family, unquestionably the number of parsons who partake of "the cup that cheers but not inebriates" is far larger than of persons who smoke. I have taken some pains to inquire as to the alterations in the tea duty and the tobacco duty, and I am informed, on what I certainly regard as very reliable authority on the subject of tea, that the whole of the reduction in the duty on tea has gone to the consumer. I cannot speak with the same positiveness on the subject of tobacco, but I think it is much more doubtful, and really it depends, I think, not so much upon the quantity as upon 725 the quality as to how far it will go to the consumer. However, I hope before we come to the Second Reading of the Bill I shall have more information on that subject. There is another consideration to which I attach also considerable value, and that is this, that tea has now become a British product almost exclusively. I was going to say four-fifths, but I believe it would be nearly true to say nine-tenths, of the tea consumed in this country is grown in India and Ceylon, and the quantity of Chinese tea is really almost an insignificant fraction. I think that is a consideration for the Treasury, as India has suffered very severely in the course of the last two years, and if the growth of tea in India would in that way be encouraged that is an additional argument. The question probably cannot be disposed of to-night on this Resolution; but I think it is a matter that requires a good deal of consideration, and we should have more light on the respective merits of tea and tobacco. As to the amount of income disposable, the sum of money that would be equivalent to the reduction of 6d. upon tobacco I am disposed to believe would be exactly the sum which would reduce the tea duty by one-half, from 4d. to 2d. That is my experience in the past. Now, when the present First Lord of the Admiralty took 2d. off the duty on tea, reducing it from 6d. to 4d., he estimated that the loss would be 1½millions, but the loss was not a million in the first year, nor has it been a million since. I have not got the figures here, but speaking from memory, I think that the recovery has been such that the loss now only amounts, I think, to £500,000. That was the result of the reduction when it was made upon the last occasion. If that be so, I do not see that there is greater reason to anticipate a larger loss from the reduction from 4d. to 2d., than there was in the case of a reduction from 6d. to 4d., but the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows this subject better than I do. When the reduction was made in 1891 the estimate of the loss was £1,500,000, but the actual loss was £1,017,000 in the first year. You never had a loss of more than £1,000,000 afterwards, and the tea duty has recouped itself so that the present loss is only half a million. That is a 726 great consideration, and if the same law operates now as then, what the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to give to tobacco would be almost exactly equivalent to a reduction of the tea duty by one-half, and on the whole I should prefer that reduction for the reasons I have stated, that it would benefit a larger number of the people, and also be a benefit to the Indian producer.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Forest of Dean)
When we get to the Second Reading of the Bill, we shall then have a chance of discussing the whole finance of the year, and we shall have other questions to discuss which have been raised by my honourable and learned Friend. I am bound to say that I think he would not have been in order if he had asked whether the Government had any money to give away for the purpose of a reduction in taxation. That is a question which we shall certainly have to discuss with the right honourable Gentleman on the Second Reading of the Bill. On this occasion we shall not be in order in discussing the question whether they have got the money to give at all, or whether they should make proposals for a reduction. For that is a matter upon which I shall take a different view from that which has been generally expressed; but I cannot discuss it on this occasion. It was understood the other night, when we passed the tobacco duty, which took away all actual interest in the matter, that we might refer to it to-day. That will, no doubt, be convenient. As the matter has been raised, perhaps, Mr. Lowther, you will allow, me to refer briefly to what has been said, in order to show that there are two sides to this question. The honourable Members who have spoken in favour of the reduction of the duty on tea have assumed that they are speaking from a democratic point of view. Now, the most anti-democratic tax which this country labours under is the tobacco tax. [Cheers.] I am glad to hear those cheers from Members acquainted with both these trades. The tobacco duty is one which varies from 1,700 per cent. down to 2½ per cent. ad valorem. This I pointed out in opposing the increase in the tobacco 727 duty proposed by the late Sir Stafford Northcote. Now, the duty on the tea consumed in this country varies only from 10 or 12 to 1. I have had a good deal of experience of the tea consumed in workhouses, and I can say that the tea consumed there is about double the price of the cheapest tea consumed, and is about 8d. per pound. Now, that tea has to compete with the 4s. per pound tea, which is to a small extent consumed by the very rich, so that the discrepancy is not very great between that which is consumed by the rich, who have a fancied taste, and that consumed by the poor. But in the case of the tobacco duty the difference between what the poor pay and what the rich pay is something enormous and overwhelming, and if this question is to be treated on democratic lines, I can assure the House that the more they look into this matter the more they will be convinced that the most anti-democratic tax is that on tobacco. Reference has been made to encouraging trade with India, but allow me to point out that the cheapest kinds of tobacco grown in India are excluded from this country altogether, because it does not pay to bring them over here. The House will, therefore, see what an overwhelming interest this is. I remember when the tobacco duties were increased the opposition of some Radicals in this House, and I recollect that on one occasion a Member representing a northern town, in addressing the House, pointed out that the dearest cigars smoked by honourable Members of this House paid only 2½ per cent. duty, as compared with 500 per cent. on an average, or 1,700 per cent. paid in extreme cases by the poorer classes. I put in these words of caution in consequence of what has fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer about an understanding, and I also put in this argument that the relieving of the tea duty cannot be argued on democratic principles against that of tobacco.
§ MR. LOUGH
I desire to illustrate with a few figures the argument which my right honourable Friend has just used. The average amount of tobacco duty paid per head of the population in Great Britain is 5s. 7d., and the average 728 amount of tea duty is only 1s. 10d. If, therefore, 5½ persons are allowed to the family, each family pays 30s. a year in tobacco duty, and only 10s. in tea duty. I am therefore unable to follow the argument of the honourable and learned Member for Dundee, who urged that a greater relief would be given by taking off the tea duty than by adopting the course which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has chosen. The point that there are fewer smokers than drinkers of tea has nothing in it, for children and women who drink tea are, in many oases, not money-earners, and the tobacco is consumed and paid for by the member of the family who earns the money, or, at any rate, carries the purse. Therefore it may be said that the less he has to pay for his tobacco the more there will be left with which to buy tea. The proportion of duty levied on tobacco is out of all proportion to that levied on tea. Ordinary leaf tobacco imported into this country, costs only 7d. a pound, yet on this a duty is levied of 3s. 2d.; probably one of the heaviest burdens imposed in any country in the world on such an article. My criticism on the Budget, then, is not that the Chancellor has not chosen tea, but that he has not taken more off tobacco. I fear that the Treasury were too clever in the matter, and that most of what appears to be gained by the reduction in duty will be lost to the public by the less degree of moisture, which can now be introduced. I ask the Chancellor even now to consider whether the reduction may not be made 8d. a pound instead of 6d., so that a halfpenny might be taken off every half-ounce. By this means the concession will reach a much larger section of the public, especially the very poor. There is another ground upon which I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have gone a little farther. He assumed that he would have £150,000 less to give away, because of the smaller produce of the death duties, but since that time three millionaires have died.
Line 6, to leave out the words 'Four Pence,' and insert the words 'Two Pence' instead thereof."—(Mr. J. A. Pease.)
§ MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
I feel very strongly upon this question. A similar Amendment was moved last year, so that we shall be consistent in raising this question again when the Bill comes forward for the Second Reading, when I hope honourable Gentlemen will adopt a similar attitude to that which they took up before.
THE CHANCELLOR ÔF THE EXCHEQUER
The advocates of tobacco on the one side and of tea on the other have left a balance considerably in favour of tobacco; therefore I will not trouble the Committee with any addition to what I said in my Budget speech as to the reasons that induced me—I think with the assent of the majority of my hearers—to prefer tobacco to tea. I was rather surprised to hear one argument urged this evening in favour of tea—namely, that tea is so very largely grown in India and Ceylon as compared with tobacco. No doubt that is the case, but to my mind we should endeavour to settle our system of taxation here rather with regard to the necessities and advantages of those who have to bear that taxation than to the necessities and advantages of anybody else, and I am specially surprised at the position of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth in this matter. His view, I understand, is this—that we should adapt our taxation, as far as we reasonably can, for the benefit of our Colonies, but that we should not allow them to adapt their taxation at all for our benefit. That appears to me an extremely contradictory policy, which I hope will be explained at the proper time. But my only object in rising now is to make an appeal to the honourable Member who has just moved this Amendment. The circumstances are quite different from those of last year. I can quite understand that 730 he and other honourable Members, who considered my estimates of revenue last year were too low, should have been anxious to reduce the indirect taxation which I then proposed. But now, Sir, circumstances are different. The honourable Member made no allegation similar to that which he made last year about the revenue, and he does not disapprove of the reduction of the taxation on tobacco, but he would rather reduce the taxation on tea. The result, however, of accepting his Amendment would be that taxation would be reduced on both articles, and if that were done proper provision for our fiscal needs would not be made. But, after what has been said, I have no doubt that this subject will be discussed at the proper time on the Second Reading of the Budget Bill, and, therefore, I hope that the honourable Member will not press his proposal now.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE
The reduction in the tobacco duty may have been justified by an increase of the tobacco revenue, which will really make up for any deficiency in the Exchequer, on account of the reduction which is going to be given to the consumers of tobacco. As this is a matter which can be arranged subsequently, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
That the words 'Four Pence' stand part of the Question.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. T. G. BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I am anxious to speak at this moment very briefly, as is my wont. I am desirous of supporting the Chancellor of the Exchequer in what he has done for tobacco as against tea, inasmuch as that is the only part of his Budget for which I have an unqualified approval. Tea! Why, tea is the beverage of neurotic women. In the earlier and batter days of this Empire tea was an unknown beverage for breakfast. Beef was taken then; and it was not till a number of ambitious merchants had discovered China, and introduced tea, that our preference for that article 731 began. It of course, enables many people, when their nerves are unstrung, and their capacity to fight in the business of life are not what they should be, to go through a certain amount of work which they would not otherwise be able to do; but see what a different position tobacco occupies. It is the stimulus of the strong man. "Divine and sublime tobacco, that from East and West, cheers the Tar's labours and the Turkman's rest." I was prepared to find that so manly a financier as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no hesitation in admitting tobacco to a reduction of duty as against tea. We all admire the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his manly qualities. There is nothing neurotic or feminine about him. He is neither a bimetallist in finance, nor bisexualism in politics. The right honorable Gentleman has told us that he holds a most impartial position in this matter because he does not smoke, but smoking is not the only use to which tobacco is put. There are those who do not smoke, but who chew. I am making no suggestion, but I can assure the right honorable Gentleman, if he does not know it, that in some of the hardest trials to which a seaman is put he finds a quid of tobacco in his cheek of the greatest possible use and comfort to him; and I think that all those who have undergone trials and privation will say unhesitatingly that if the choice were put to them of losing their tea or their tobacco, they would give up the tea most cheerfully. I only regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not see his way to make the reduction on tobacco even greater than it is, because I believe that nothing would have been so calculated to be an encouragement to the manly, independent, useful taxpayer as that reduction. As for tea, the only effect of reducing the duty on tea is to encourage a few old ladies and a few nervous young or middle-aged men. It was for this reason that I was anxious to express my approbation of this portion of the Budget, as there are other portions of it on which I trust the Committee will allow me to make a few remarks not quite so favorable. If the choice of the right honorable Gentleman was between tea and tobacco, I do not in the least condole with those who, wanting the 732 duty off tea, have upon this occasion been badly defeated.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That the duty of Customs now payable on tea shall continue to be charged, levied, and paid on and after the first day of August, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight, until the first day of August, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-nine, on the importation thereof into Great Britain or Ireland; that is to say:—Tea . . the pound . . Fourpence.
§ Resolutions to be reported to-morrow; Committee to sit again on Wednesday.