HC Deb 09 December 1908 vol 198 cc662-9

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. HOLT moved the adjournment of the debate. He pointed out that the Bill had only been in the hands of Members since the Wednesday morning, and it was then nearly three a.m. and Members had been given no time in which to consider it. That was really not a fit and proper time of the night or morning to ask the House to embark on the consideration of a highly contentious measure of that sort.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Holt.)


trusted that his hon. friend would withdraw his objection to the Second Reading being taken that night. The Bill was framed purely to carry out the unanimous recommendation of the Select Committee appointed by the present Government to inquire into the question of preventing the use of certain deleterious hop substitutes and to impose the same conditions upon the importers of foreign hops as were already imposed by Acts of Parliament on British hops. The recommendation was strictly unanimous; Members of both parties agreed to it and there was nothing in the Bill which had not been before the House of Commons for months past. If his hon. friend had read the Blue-books he would have discovered that this was not a new thing at all but was purely a confirmation of what had been already put in the draft Bill introduced by another hon. Member. If his hon. friend would allow the Government to get a Second Reading of the Bill that night he would have a full opportunity of discussing its details in Committee of the Whole House, and any objections he might have with regard to the first part of the Bill which related to hop substitutes, or the second part which regarded the marking of hops, could be thoroughly ventilated. He wished to make it quite clear to the House that the Government had no desire to withdraw the Bill from the consideration of the House.

* MR. LEIF JONES (Westmoreland, Appleby)

desired to join in the appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to proceed with the Second Reading of the Bill at that sitting. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that the Committee were unanimous upon the Bill. That might be so; but it was certainly the case that the House was not at all unanimous upon it, nor even the party of which the right hon. Gentleman was so distinguished an ornament. The Bill had only been put in the hands of Members that day and there had scarcely been time to study it; therefore he did not think the right hon. Gentleman ought to ask them without notice to commit themselves to the principle of the Bill. He certainly would be bound, if the right hon. Gentleman persisted in pushing forward the measure, to ask the indulgence of the House while he stated the very strong objections he and others felt towards the Bill.

* SIR W. J. COLLINS (St. Pancras, W.)

said if there happened to be anything controversial in the propositions contained in the Bill, that certainly did not show itself in the Report of the Select Committee. Although acutely divided on the question of an import duty on hops, the Committee were absolutely unanimous in regard to these two simple questions as to which it was thought that hop-growers had a legitimate grievance. The matter was very thoroughly threshed out by the Committee whose Report had been before the Members of the House for some time and had been fairly well discussed outside. Hop growers attached great importance to the matters dealt with in the Bill, and he hoped, therefore, that the discussion would be reserved to the Committee stage.


did not think there was very much chance of the Committee stage being proceeded with that week, but he hoped they would be able to secure an opportunity next Monday. It was only fair to the House to point out that in the Prime Minister's statement made earlier in the sitting, it was announced that in the event of opposition being offered to the Bill, the Government did not propose to proceed with it. The House would have a much better opportunity of judging the extent of the opposition to the Bill after Amendment had been put down than could be possibly disclosed by a Second Reading debate.

Question put, and negatived.

Original Question again proposed.

*MR. LEIF JONES moved that the Bill be read a second time on that day three months. He felt bound to put forward the objections he entertained to the Bill. It had been said and it was well-known that the Bill was the outcome of the Select Committee on hops, over which the hon. Member for St. Pancras, W. presided. That was the origin of the Bill as it stood, but the genesis of the measure was to be found in the Pure Beer Bill, presented to the House for many years in succession during the last and the early days of this century. In fact the first part of the Bill was practically the same as Clause 4 of the Pure Beer Bill of 1902, which prohibited the use of hop substitutes in the brewing of beer. At that time the proposal was hotly opposed by the Liberal Leaders of the House, who were then in opposition He had searched the records of the debates in the hope of finding an eloquent speech delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer against the proposal. The right hon. Gentleman, however, apparently did not speak, but the late Sir William Harcourt spoke very strongly and Mr. Fletcher Moulton, as he then was, made a speech on the Pure Beer Bill, which he thought went far to destroy the case for the right hon. Gentleman's Bill at the present time. The motive that lay behind the Bill was not very obscure; the whole agitation which led to the Bill came from those who desired protection for the hop industry in this country. The aim of the first part of the Bill was to give protection to the hop growers The hon. Member for Gravesend was very much alarmed in the early part of the year at the tremendous dumping of foreign hops from California, which was magnified by his imagination, and to a very great extent led to the appointment of the Select Committee, and finally to the present Bill. Although the Committee failed to see that any protection was necessary, in the suggestion to prohibit hop substi- tutes they were clearly giving a protective advantage to hops.

LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)

Why not?


thought the interruption of the noble Lord should give a warning to Members on the Ministerial side of the House of the true character of the Bill. Whether it was the intention of the Government to give protection or not, he unhesitatingly said the effect of the first part of the Bill would undoubtedly be to give protection to hops. It was admitted by everyone, and certainly by a good many witnesses before the Committee, that the use of these hop substitutes chiefly occurred when the price of hops was high. To prohibit the use of substitutes would have the tendency to raise the price of hops, and, therefore, it could not be denied that that part of the Bill would be of a protective character. Another objection to the Bill was that it was anti-scientific. He was surprised that an eminent scientist like the Member for West St. Pancras should associate himself with a proposal which was definitely aimed against chemists and chemistry. The House was asked to assume that it would be the right thing to prohibit the use of hop substitutes, but if this sort of doctrine had prevailed and the Government had been led to say what should, or should not, be used in brewing beer, he would like to point out that no hops could be used in making beer in this country at all, because, in the time of Charles II. the use of hops was prohibited by the law of the land. In those days anyone using hops was liable to be imprisoned, and the hop was known as "the wicked weed." If the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer underlying that Bill had prevailed at that time no hops could have been used at all, and they would not now have been asked to stereotype the present practice. They were wantonly interfering with industry. The brewery industry had become very highly developed. It employed excellent chemists, and he did not see why they should be prevented from employing scientific substitutes for hops if they could do so. No need had been shown for the prohibition. The Committee which had sat this year had differed from the Departmental Committee which had satin 1899, of which Lord Pembroke was the Chairman. That Committee had been satisfied from the evidence put before it that no deleterious materials were introduced into beer by way of substitutes for hops. Was it contended that there had been a great change in the last ten years? He found no evidence of such a change. The Committee of 1899 had recommended that there should be a declaration as to the hop substitutes which were used by brewers, and since 1901 that had been carried out, and the figures in the Select Committee's Report did not show that there had been any increase in the use of hop substitutes. In 1902 the percentage was .05. It rose to .14 in 1905, and in 1907 sunk to .08. That did not show that the use of these substitutes was increasing, but rather that substitutes were not in general use. Everybody agreed that there was no satisfactory substitute for hops, and the substitutes that were used would only be used for particular classes of beer. He would not oppose any proposal to stop the putting of deleterious substances into beer, though he was afraid he would never be able to get what he regarded as the most deleterious material done away with. He thought it would be undesirable that a Liberal House of Commons should pass that Bill. He had been sorry to detain the House at that late hour, but he felt very strongly on the subject, and unless the right hon. Gentleman was able to effect a great change in his views he could offer him no prospect of the Bill having a non-contentious passage through the House.

* MR. DUNDAS WHITE (Dumbartonshire)

seconded the rejection of the Bill. If the object of the Bill was to prohibit the use of hop substitutes with a view to securing public health, the prohibitions should extend only to such substitutes as were deleterious.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.'"—(Mr Leif Jones).

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said he resented the suggestion of the hon. Member for Appleby that the Report of the Committee on the question of hops had suggested protection. As a matter of fact he had seen that Report used for the purpose of propaganda by the Free Trade Union. If the hon. Gentleman had read the Report carefully he would have seen that the case for protection in regard to the hop industry had been disproved by the figures it contained.


said what he had stated was that the Report had exploded the idea that it was protection, but for all that the Bill was a protective Bill.


said he thought the marking of foreign hops and the prohibition of hop substitutes could be entirely justified on grounds other than protection. The hon. Member who had carried his researches back to the time of Charles II. in his speech had omitted altogether to make any reference to the Report of the Royal Commission on arsenical poisoning in 1904. In the evidence it was shown that some, at least, of the hop substitutes contained deleterious ingredients. The Bill, if passed, would meet the legitimate grievances of hop growers, but it was in no way a protective measure.

MR. BENNETT (Oxfordshire, Woodstock)

said he only rose to give one more indication of the strong feeling of Members sitting on that side of the House who cherished free trade feelings, against this Bill. It would be some satisfaction to them if the Bill was wanted by some considerable section of the community, but there was no evidence of that. As far as he had been able to discover it was not wanted by the brewers. They knew perfectly well that one portion of the Bill would have the effect of limiting the supply of hops from Austria and Germany. It was also quite clear that the brewers realised the necessity for having a constant supply of hops from abroad. A very well known brewer had said that before the Committee, and because of having given that evidence he had had the mortification of having his own beer boycotted. Subsection (a), Clause 2, provided that the name of the planter or grower of the hop was to be placed on the packet. That provision was perfectly possible and could be carried out in many places. It was quite impossible to carry it out satisfactorily in Germany or Austria, for the hops there were produced by the small holders and were brought to England in small quantities to which it would be quite impossible to attach individual names. The whole object of the Bill was, so far as possible, to keep German and Austrian hops out of this country. That was a tariff reform touch, and he was surprised that the Government had agreed to it. The Attorney-General, giving evidence before the Committee, had called attention to the immense difficulties following on attempts to mark goods coming from abroad. He had given instances where the law had been got over, and had spoken of some people, known as "the lost souls," who were prepared at any moment to provide formal affidavits. He was surprised that so transparent a tariff reform device as that which had been practised in this case should have escaped the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Amendment negatived.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for this day.—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)