HC Deb 25 April 1901 vol 92 cc1401-11

2. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the additional duties of customs on tobacco, beer, and spirits imposed by sections two, three, four, and five of the Finance Act, 1900 (includin gany increased duties imposed by section five of that Act), shall continue to be charged until the first day of August nineteen hundred and two."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)

MR. DALY (Monaghan, S.)

asked if he would be in order in moving a reduction of these duties.


If the hon. Gentleman will bring up the form of his Amendment I will decide upon it.


contended that the increase put upon tobacco last year should be removed, and that the tax should remain as it was before. He always objected to increases in the duties on these articles because they did not fall proportionately upon the different classes of the community. He thought the extra tax imposed upon imported cigars was altogether too little, and the tax upon ordinary tobacco was a great deal too much. He had not the slightest objection to putting as heavy a tax as they pleased on expensive imported cigars, but he strongly objected to an additional tax being put upon the ordinary tobacco so much used by the masses of the people. It appeared to him that in this matter the Government were acting in accordance with the general policy which they had laid down of making the taxation fall as heavily as possible upon the poorer members of the community and as little as possible upon the richer classes. When he stated last year that a man who could afford to pay 1s., 1s. 6d., or 2s. 6d., for a cigar, which lasted him perhaps for five or ten minutes, should be called upon to pay a much heavier tax, he was jeered at by hon. Members opposite, and be was told that it was a monstrous thing to say that gentlemen paid 1s. or 2s. for a cigar. He had taken the trouble to inquire into the matter. As a member of the Kitchen Committee he had ascertained that the most popular cigar in that House was a 1s. cigar. If they were to impose taxation in order to meet the expenses of the South African war, it should be made to fall upon the gentlemen who could afford to pay 1s., or 1s. 6d., or 2s. for a cigar, and not upon the tobacco used by the working men of the country. He proposed to add at the end of the resolution the following words: "Except that Ireland be exempted from the tax upon tobacco." He thought he was perfectly justified in doing that, because they ought to take every opportunity afforded them of protesting against any imposition of taxation to meet the expenses of the war. He protested against any taxation being put on Ireland for this war, and had he not taken the course which he had pursued upon this resolution he would not have been doing his duty. It appeared to him a most outrageous thing that the Irish people should have to pay more for their tobacco because the Government thought fit to go to war, and plunge the Empire into the disaster and sacrifice which it had made during the last year and a half. It would have been some consolation perhaps if, in reimposing this duty upon tobacco, the Government could say that they had brought the war to a conclusion, that they were in smooth water, and in sight of the day when the tax would be taken off. Nothing of that kind could be put forward at the present time, and they were in a great deal worse position in South Africa now than at the commencement of the war. The hon. Member for Oldham would be able to tell his constituents that every time they smoked a half-ounce of tobacco they would be firing a shot at Mr. Kruger. After reading that speech he came to the conclusion never to take a lump of sugar again, and he would have resolved as long as this additional tax was put upon tobacco to abstain from tobacco also, but he felt that he should not have been equal to it. In October, 1899, he protested against this war, and upon every occasion since he had opposed the fresh taxation which was necessary to carry on the war. Therefore, in moving the resolution to exempt Ireland from this tax, he was only following out consistently the course which he had commenced at the beginning of the war.

Amendment proposed— At the end of the Question, to add the words 'except that Ireland be exempted from the tax on tobacco.'"—(Mr. William Redmond.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


thought that after the able manner in which his hon. friend had placed this question before the House the right hon. Gentleman would have no difficulty in accepting this Amendment. He thought his hon. friend had made out a very strong case for increasing the tax on cigars used by the swells. He wished to remind the Committee that the Local Government Board in Ireland were now compelling the boards of guardians to allow tobacco to the inmates, and Ireland would be affected to a considerable extent if the increase in the duty on tobacco was persisted in. He was sure there was no hon. Member on the Opposition side of the House who would have the slightest objection to whatever tax the right hon. Gentleman put upon fancy tobacco and cigars. He respectfully asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept the Amendment which had been so ably proposed by the Member for East Clare.

MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)

said it appeared to him that the House was entitled to more information with regard to the way the resolutions had been brought forward. They were simply put from the Chair, and Members were not afforded any opportunity of considering them beforehand, and preparing Amendments. He trusted that some arrangement would be come to by which Members would have an opportunity of considering what Amendments they wished to bring forward. As far as Ireland was concerned he wished to protest against any increase of taxation of any kind upon any pretext whatsoever. Ireland was already overtaxed, and they had already given very good reasons why tins tax should be reduced. He entirely agreed with what the hon. Member for East Clare had said. If any change should be made, he would suggest that the tax on cigars should be increased, and the tax on tobacco decreased. The system of taxation which prevailed in this country was mainly to put taxes on the articles most used by the poor, and decrease the taxes on the articles used by the rich. The Irish people did not desire to contribute anything in support of a war to which they were entirely opposed, and he believed that the burden of taxation about to be imposed by this Budget to meet the expenditure of the war was almost more than the people of the three kingdoms could bear. He thought that it would not be difficult to get a large number of people in Ireland to strike against the payment of Imperial taxation, which was about the only way in which they could bring home to this House the hardship of the grievance which they felt in Ireland.


As far as I understand the arguments of hon. Members opposite, there are two points taken by them—first, that cigars are not sufficiently taxed; and, secondly, that raw tobacco is taxed too highly. I will remind hon. Gentlemen that two years ago I reduced the duty on raw tobacco by 6d., while I did not reduce the duty on cigars; and when last year the duty on tobacco was increased by 4d. I put 6d. upon the duty on cigars. Therefore pro tanto cigars are more highly taxed in comparison with tobacco than they formerly were. But the objection of hon. Gentlemen goes further. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has stated his objection to perpetuating the existing taxation in Ireland. It is practically impossible to accede to the wishes of hon. Gentlemen in that respect. We could not have two rates of duty on tobacco in England and Ireland without having separate Customs Houses, and it would involve a total change in our fiscal system. I think that in the end that would be far worse to Ireland than an increase of taxation. I hope we shall now divide upon the motion.


said that the right hon. Gentleman, when this matter was being discussed last year, was good enough to hold out to them the hope that he would take steps to remove the restrictions prohibiting the growing of tobacco in Ireland. He wished to ask whether that statement held good now, and whether the experiments in the growing of tobacco in Ireland, which were being made by the new Board of Agriculture, were likely to be successful.


If recommendations are made to me by the Board of Agriculture in Ireland, and if it can be done without dislocating the system, I will favourably consider the matter.

Question put.

The Committee, divided:—Ayes. 56; Noes, 278. (Division List No. 148.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N.E. Hayden, John Patrick O'Dowd, John
Ambrose, Robert Hope, John Deans (Fife, West) O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo N.)
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Jameson, Mayor J. Eustace O'Mara, James
Boland, John Jordan, Jeremiah O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Boyle, James Joyce, Michael Power, Patrick Joseph
Burke, E. Haviland- Kennedy, Patrick James Reddy, M.
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Leamy, Edmund Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Cogan, Denis J. Lundon, W. Redmond, William (Clare)
Crean, Eugene MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A. Roche, John
Cullinan, J. M'Dermott, Patrick Sullivan, Donal
Daly, James Mooney, John J. Taylor, Theodore Cooke
Delany, William Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport) Thompson, E C (Monaghan, N.)
Doogan, P. C. Murnaghan, George Tully, Jasper
Duffy, William J. Murphy, J. Ure, Alexander
Farrell, James Patrick Nannetti, Joseph P. White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Field, William Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N. Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)
Flavin, Michael Joseph Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)
Flynn, James Christopher O'Brien, Kendal (T'pp'rary Mid TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Gilhooly, James O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.) Sir Thomas Esmonde and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.
Hammond, John O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F Bousfield, William Robert Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn Craig, Robert Hunter
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Brassey, Albert Cranborne, Viscount
Allen, Charles P (Glouc., Stroud Brigg, John Cremer, William Randal
Allhusen, Augustus H. Eden Broadhurst, Henry Crombie, John William
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Dalkeith, Earl of
Arkwright, John Stanhope Brookfield, Colonel Montagu Dalrymple, Sir Charles
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Bullard, Sir Harry Davies, Sir Horatio D (Chatham
Asquith, Rt Hn. Herbert Henry Butcher, John George Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.
Atherley-Jones, L. Caldwell, James Dickinson, Robert Edmond
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Cautley, Henry Strother Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.
Bain, Colonel James Robert Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbys. Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield
Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds Cawley, Frederick Doughty, George
Banbury, Frederick George Cayzer, Sir Charles William Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-
Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor) Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Doxford, Sir William Theodore
Bartley, George C. T. Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Duncan, J. Hastings
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm. Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Channing, Francis Allston Edwards, Frank
Bell, Richard Charrington, Spencer Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Churchill, Winston Spencer Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r
Bill, Charles Cohen, Benjamin Louis Finch, George H.
Black, Alexander William Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne
Blundell, Colonel Henry Colville, John Firbank, Joseph Thomas
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Compton, Lord Alwyne Fisher, William Hayes
Bond, Edward Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Forster, Henry William
Fuller, J. M. F. Loyd, Archie Kirkman Royds, Clement Molyneux
Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H (City of Lond. Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft Russell, T. W.
Gladstone, Rt. Hn Herbert John Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsm'th Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-
Goddard, Daniel Ford Macdona, John Cumming Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk. MacIver, David (Liverpool) Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Gordon, Hn. J. E (Elgin & Nairn) Maconochie, A. W. Scott, Sir S (Marylebone, W.)
Gordon, Maj Evans- (T'rH'ml's M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Seton-Karr, Henry
Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon M'Arthur, William (Cornwall Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)
Goschen, Hon. George Joachim M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E. Shipman, Dr. John G.
Goulding, Edward Alfred M'Crae, George Simeon, Sir Harrington
Green, Walford D. (Wednesb'ry M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire Sinclair, Capt. John (Forfarsh.
Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury) Majendie, James A. H. Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Greene, W. Raymond- (Cambs. Malcolm, Ian Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)
Gretton, John Mansfield, Horace Rendall Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.
Greville, Hon. Ronald Makham, Arthur Basil Smith, Samuel (Flint)
Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick) Martin, Richard Biddulph Smith, Hon. W. F D. (Strand)
Groves, James Grimble Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh. Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill Melville, Beresford Valentine Soares, Ernest J.
Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton Middlemore, John T. Spear, John Ward
Hain, Edward Milton, Viscount Spencer, Rt Hn C R. (Northants)
Haldane, Richard Burdon Molesworth, Sir Lewis Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk
Hambro, Charles Eric Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G. (Mid'x Montagu, Hon. J. S. (Hants.) Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart
Hamilton, Marq. of (L'donderry More, Robt. Jasper (Shropsh. Strachey, Edward
Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm. Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow) Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Harmsworth, R. Leicester Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F. Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Harris, Frederick Leverton Morrison, James Archibald Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (O'xf'd Univ
Haslam, Sir Alfred S. Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford) Thomas, David Alfred (Merth'r
Hay, Hon. Claude George Moss, Samuel Thomas, F Freeman- (Hastings
Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Mount, William Arthur Thomas, J A (Glamorg'n, Gow'r
Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D. Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C. Thornton, Percy M.
Heath, James (Staffords., N.W. Murray, Rt Hn A Graham (Bute Tollemache, Henry James
Helder, Augustus Nicholson, William Graham Tomkinson, James
Helme, Norval Watson Nicol, Bonald Ninian Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Hermon-Hodge, Robert T. Norman, Henry Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Higginbottom, S. W. Nussey, Thomas Willans Valentia, Vicount
Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich) Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)
Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E. Palmer, Walter (Salisbury) Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brights'de Parkes, Ebenezer Warde, Colonel C. E.
Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry Partington, Oswald Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney
Howard, J. (Kent, Faversham Peel, Hn. Wm. Robt. Wellesley Webb, Colonel Willam George
Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton Pemberton, John S. G. White, George (Norfolk)
Johnston, William (Belfast) Pierpoint Robert White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex) Plummer, Walter R. Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-Lyne)
Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Kearley, Hudson E. Price, Robert John Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh Priestley, Arthur Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop. Purvis, Robert Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)
Keswick, William Randles, John S. Willox, Sir John Archibald
King, Sir Henry Seymour Rankin, Sir James Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)
Knowles, Lees Rasch, Major Frederic Carne Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Lambert, George Ratcliffe, R. F. Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Langley, Batty Reckitt, Harold James Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Law, Andrew Bonar Reid, James (Greenock) Wodehouse, Rt. Hon. E. R (Bath
Lawrence, William F. Remnant, James Farquharson Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Hudd'sfi'd
Lawson, John Grant Rentoul, James Alexander Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Layland-Barratt, Francis Richards, Henry Charles Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Lee, A H. (Hants., Fareham) Rickett, J. Compton Wylie, Alexander
Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Ridley, Hon. M. W (Stalybridge Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Rigg, Richard Young, Commander (Berks, E.)
Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S. Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Younger, William
Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R. Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Roe, Sir Thomas TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Bristol, S. Rolleston, Sir John F. L. Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Lowe, Francis William Ropner, Colonel Robert
Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale) Round, James

Question put, and agreed to.

Original Question again proposed.


said his hon. friend had spoken of some of the taxation not being according to the spirit of the constitution. He was going to say a few words on a spirit that was ruinous to the constitution. He had on former occasions called the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the huge amount of spirits that were brought into this country year by year. He had shown the right hon. Gentleman how they were manufactured; he had even shown him the patents for producing spirits which were most deleterious to the health of the people. They were imported year by year in increasing quantities. The figures for the last three years for which he had been able to obtain statistics were: 1898, 1,611,060 gallons; 1897, 1,679,831 gallons; and 1896, 1,609,428 gallons. As a matter of fact, he believed that of the whole 1,679,831 gallons only 8,000 were made into methylated spirits. The remainder went into consumption as Scotch and Irish whisky. It was putting a premium on fraud to allow that spirit to come into this country. He had written to the right hon. Gentleman asking him to allow a different coloured permit to be given, so that the Government might be able to trace how this spirit was used; but the right hon. Gentleman did not see it in the same way. Perhaps he thought that probably it would reduce the sale of that spirit, and that the taxes would suffer. He was perfectly sure there would be an enormous reduction in the death rate if that spirit was not allowed to be sold. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give some indication that he would put a prohibitive tax on this spirit, a great part of which was made in Germany out of shavings and sawdust, with the help of sulphuric acid. Even for the benefit of taxation he would decline to allow the health of the country to be ruined by allowing that spirit to be put into circulation. A spirit not quite so bad as this, but still not good, was made in Scotland from molasses, which was to be charged the additional sugar duty. Therefore the foreign spirit would be more favoured than the Scotch spirit, and the right hon. Gentleman would be knocking an industry out in this country in favour of the Germans, the Danish, the Swedes, and the Russians. He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to put an extra tax on this foreign spirit, and the similar spirit made from molasses would not be interfered with. Look how the Germans taxed all foreign wines and spirits—four times the amount that we did. It was far better that the tax should come out of the pockets of foreigners than out of our own. He really hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take those two points into his serious consideration.


The hon. Member has communicated with me on this subject several times. I may mention that I do not think that his estimate of the amount of foreign spirit mixed with our home production in the way he describes is correct. The amount imported is small compared with the total amount of spirits produced in this country, and is used, not for the purposes of methylated spirit, but in various manufactures. Besides, if the mixture takes place at all, it takes place out of bond, where the Inland Revenue cannot follow it. What the hon. Member desires is that this spirit coming from abroad should be more heavily taxed. This resolution taxes it more heavily than before. The hon. Member says that the duty on molasses will interfere with the home manufacture. I think he is mistaken. The molasses will be sent in bond to the distillers, and will not pay duty, and the distillers will be no more heavily taxed than at present. I have been in communication with them, and I have no doubt we will be able to make arrangements which will be entirely satisfactory as to their position in the future.


said that the right hon. Gentleman insisted that there was not a large quantity of the foreign spirit brought into consumption, that the Excise could not account for it, and that it was not mixed in bond. He maintained that the mixing was done in bond, and what was not used for mixing with whisky was used for fortifying wine. If the light hon. Gentleman said he was wrong, why did he not grant a different coloured permit, so that they might be able to know how that foreign spirit was used, and where it was used. He was sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer was anxious that this fraud should not be perpetrated; and if he gave a different coloured permit, the right hon. Gentleman would be able to prove that he was wrong, or to prove that more than three-fourths of that large amount of foreign spirit went into consumption. (Laughter.) It might not matter to those hon. Gentlemen who laughed, who probably drank it, but they would, before long, be paying death duties.


If the hon. and gallant Member can prove to me that a different coloured permit will enable us to trace this deleterious spirit better than we can at present, then I quite agree that it should be given. But he has not been able to prove that yet. However, I shall be glad to receive any further information on the subject.


thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy.


said if the right hon. Gentleman made inquiry he would find that large quantities of this spirit came from Hamburg, and could be traced to Scotland and Ireland, where it was mixed with Highland malt whisky and Irish whisky, and afterwards exported as pure Highland and Irish whisky. There could be no doubt that a large amount of the deplorable intoxication which followed the use of this so-called malt whisky was owing to the large importation of this deleterious spirit. It was made from potatoes, damaged grain, rice, and other inferior products, and the result was that it was most injurious to the health of those who consumed it. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the fact that four or five years ago a report was issued by the whisky trade in Belfast in which it was pointed out that a sum of close upon a million sterling was paid on imported spirit. What did that mean? It meant that a vast portion of it was mixed with some kind of homo spirits in Belfast and neighbourhood. Some of it was sold in Ireland, but the rest was exported to this country, and sold by the retailers as Irish whisky, and that was a grievance to the Irish distillers. It was deadly in its effects in this country. A large amount of the intoxication and semi-lunacy in this country was owing to the free manner in which Irish whisky was mixed with this foreign, spirit. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would instruct the Customs and Excise to look into the matter, and formulate a scheme which would have the effect of modifying the deplorable results which, from every point of view, followed the consumption of these mixtures.

Resolved, That the additional duties of Customs on tobacco, beer, and spirits imposed by sections two, three, four and five of the Finance Act, 1900 (including any increased duties imposed by Section 5 of that Act), shall continue to be charged until the first day of August, nineteen hundred and two.

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