HC Deb 24 May 1909 vol 5 cc945-61

4. "That in lieu of the duties of Excise now payable on tobacco grown in Ireland there shall on and after the thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and nine, be charged the following duties (that is to say):—

Upon tobacco unmanufactured, viz.:—
s. d.
Tobacco containing 10 1bs. or more of moisture in every100 1bs. weight thereof, the pound 3 6
Tobacco containing less than 10 1bs. of moisture in every 100 1bs. weight thereof, the pound 3 11
Upon tobacco manufactured, viz.:—
Cavendish or Negrohead manufactured in bond, the pound 4 8
and that duties of Excise at the same rates shall be charged on tobacco grown in England or Scotland, and that there shall be charged on a licence to be taken out annually by every person growing, cultivating, or curing tobacco in England or Scotland an Excise duty of 5s."—[Mr. Lloyd-George.]

Resolution read a second time.


I desire, in moving the Amendment on the Paper to reduce the duty from 3s..6d to 1s. 9d., to raise a protest against the doctrine of counter vailing Excise duties. I hare never had a scientific explanation of the foundation of that doctrine, and I shall be glad to have one to-night. It has not been universally held by Free Traders— for instance, Mr. Cobden accepted the registration duty of 1s. as a Customs duty, but he never argued that it should be followed by a countervailing duty to the same amount. I understand it orginated purely for the protection of the Revenue. I can well understand the necessity for the application of a countervailing Excise as against goods manufactured abroad, but it is absolutely and entirely opposed to common sense where a new industry is growing up which you wish to encourage and do not wish to penalise by a heavy duty. In this case of tobacco you have a case in point, and surely you do not wish to strangle it in the first few days of its existence. Surely it would be better to allow the industry to develop and to allow the Revenue to place on it such duties as it will bear until it is at last considered to be in a condition to pay the full amount of the ordinary Revenue duty. Apply this principle to tobacco. Prohibitive duties were imposed in the time of Charles II., but the severity of that policy was mitigated in Ireland in the following century, and from that time tobacco was allowed to be grown in that country. I remember reading a book written by Mr. Mitchell Henry, a former Member of this House, in which he talks of having seen in his boyhood days the fires of the Excise burning the tobacco in Ireland. It was a substantial industry, and it was only the ruthless policy of the Government which crushed it out. Within the last few years experimental work has been carried on with a view to the cultivation of tobacco in Ireland. We have it on the highest authority that it is only in the nature of an experiment, but we are also told gnat while a subsidy is given to it at the present time, immediately it is able to stand on its own legs the full severity of the Excise duty will be applied to it. This matter came up for discussion in the course of the Colonial Conference, and Colonial Premiers quoted the case of Ireland upon it. The present Prime Minister said it was a mere experiment to see whether tobacco could be grown in Ireland. He added that they had allowed 100 acres to be used for the purpose, and if the experiment proved successful the same duty would be applied in that case as in others. What does that mean? He first encourages an experiment. and fosters the growth of an industry, and when he has succeeded he comes down upon it with overwhelming weight to. gather the duty. I might quote the equally disastrous effect of this policy on the growth of such products as tea and sugar, and we have simply stifled the birth of the industry. Take the case of Indian tobacco. The duty presses on the cheaper kinds, and we shall find the same effect will be produced in the growth of Irish tobacco; the imposition of a bulk duty instead of an ad valorem duty may crush out the industry. There are hon. Members. from Ireland who know the details of this question, and much as I differ from them on general questions of policy I think they deserve a good deal of sympathy for the treatment of Ireland on economic grounds through the selfish policy of the eighteenth century. Here is a new industry which has already achieved a great measure of success, and I trust it will not be crushed out of existence for the sake of a duty which will bear equally hard on similar enterprises in Scotland and in this country, and for this reason I propose my Amendment.


I rise to second, and in doing so I will give some reasons for my action. It appears to me that the relief proposed to be given by this Budget is totally inadequate. If that is the way in which we encourage an industry, which it is admitted was crushed out in days gone by in Ireland, and which does not now exist but may be revived, then I say that the offer of the Government is totally inadequate, and I trust my hon. Friend may get the general support of the House to his Amendment. Before I was a Member of this House I had a friend here, who was one of the Members for Kent, and he took the greatest interest in tobacco growing and conducted experiments in Kent and made cigars and tobacco there. He went to the Government of that time and obtained permission, as he could not grow it without some permit, and in the small field in which he grew his tobacco—perhaps some two or three acres—they put up a hut and there was a Government official there all the time. The officials counted all the plants and kept a record of every one, whether it grew up or not or whether it was destroyed by worms. He continued the experiment for one year and he said the conditions placed upon him were intolerable and no man could grow tobacco under them. We have now another attempt and I hope it will meet with better encouragement. But what is the en-encouragement which is offered? Two-pence in the pound. What do they do in foreign countries when they want to establish a new industry? They give prizes, and in one case they gave £500 for the first crop of smoking tobacco that was grown, and it was worth their while to do it. It is necessary in Ireland to get some experience in the maturing of tobacco, and I believe they are having some men over from Virginia who will assist in curing it. I hope that may be so and that these men who come over from Virginia to help in curing tobacco may be able to do so, but they will have no experience as to the conditions which prevail in Ireland, which may be different from those to which they are accustomed. It is one of the most difficult processes in the world and although they may have in Ireland highly skilled men, it is very certain that they will not produce such an article as if they were allowed to proceed for some years with the assistance of the State. It is a question for us all. It was suggested that people might be allowed to grow it in Scotland, and I should have thought we might have ventured to grow it in England. We were told that we had not the same Bill that they had in Ireland, under which they get this miserable rebate of two pence in the pound.

I hope when there is a Bill for England it will be in very different terms from this one as regards Ireland, and that when we get the Development Grant, that not only will two pence be given for a new industry like this, but that they will give prizes and high premiums to the first man who can produce tobacco and cigars. He will be a benefactor to his country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer laughs, but a man who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before is said to be a benefactor, and if a man can make tobacco grow in Ireland is he not also a benefactor to his country. I hope, notwithstanding the laughter, that we shall see many Members opposite who will do their best to help us and give the Irish on this occasion such a system as will enable them to start this industry, which in the future may attain to great dimensions. May I mention a parallel case— I would only just refer to it as it may be out of order— but it is the parallel case when sugar beet was grown in England. Two years ago the farmers in Suffolk were prepared to grow beet if there was a factory, and people were prepared to put up a factory if the farmers would grow beet. The two depend entirely upon one another. It is no use to put up a factory unless you get a large amount of beet grown, and it is no use growing beet unless you have a factory. I asked the late Chancellor of the Exchequer when there was a Id. duty on sugar, "Is there any duty upon sugar if you produce it in this country?" and he replied, "No." I said: "Then you can grow sugar in England free of duty?" and he replied, "If you do we shall be obliged to put 1d. Excise duty on it, so that it shall not have any benefit over foreign grown sugar." That killed the proposal. The money was ready, and the farmers had made their contracts, but the action of the Government killed it. I say they will kill this tobacco industry and any other new industry if they do not give it something over and above what other people get. The pioneers of industry ought to be encouraged, and I shall never give my vote more heartily than I shall on this question that the duty be reduced by half for the benefit of the Irishmen who grow tobacco under present circumstances.


I have an Amendment on the Paper which I suppose, under the Rules, I shall not be able now to move. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment could see his way to withdraw it and allow me to move mine?


What I wish to do is to protest against the 3s. 6d., and the question you have put is that 3s. 6d. stand part. If the 3s. 6d. disappears I shall be quite ready to insert 2s. 10d. instead of 1s. 9d. If the hon. Member thinks it more convenient that I should withdraw my Amendment now I shall be extremely glad to do it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved to leave out "3s. 6d." and to insert "2s. 10d." I am extremely obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his kindness. I asked him to withdraw his Amendment, not indeed because I think he went too far in seeking to reduce the tax on Irish-grown tobacco by half, but because I think it will be possible to make out a more reasonable and more sensible case for the Amendment which I had down. I say that not in disparagement of my hon. Friend, but simply for this reason. He proposed to reduce the tax by half, and that, whether we agree with it or disagree with it, we must all admit to be a large proposal. My Amendment simply asks that the additional tax of 8d. shall not be levied upon this new industry in Ireland. I do not ask you to reduce by: ½d. the tax at present levied, which is 2s. 10d.

Leave that tax there as it is. The growers will endeavour to pay it, but do not in the name of common fair play and justice put eight pence of fresh taxation upon this young industry, which has only been a few years in existence. Whether hon. Gentlemen agree with me or not, I am sure they must all admit at least that it is a more moderate and reasonable proposition to ask that you shall not put fresh taxation upon Irish-grown tobacco than to ask, as hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway ask, not merely that you should not put fresh taxation on, but that you should considerably reduce the present taxation of Irish-grown tobacco. I do hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will endeavour to meet our demand in this matter. I know perfectly well hon. Gentlemen opposite are wedded to the principle of Free Trade in every way. I know perfectly well that directly a man gets up in this House and says that any proposition is contrary to the principles of. Free Trade it is almost sure to secure a strong majority against the proposition made. But I do appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to remember that there may be an exception even to the most rigid rule, and that even to the principle of Free Trade objection may occasionally well be taken even by those who are convinced Free Traders. I submit, with all deference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that really the principle of Free Trade or Protection does not arise in this small matter of Irish-grown tobacco at all. In the first place, it is perfectly nonsensical for anyone to pretend for a moment that this is a question of large commercial concern, or that the Treasury are in any danger of losing any considerable amount of revenue if they meet us in this matter. Nobody can say that the tobacco industry in Ireland has assumed commercial proportions at all at the present time worth speaking of, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am certain, will not contend that this tax is put upon Irish-grown tobacco for the purpose of revenue, because everybody knows that the amount of revenue is so very small in connection with Irish-grown tobacco as hardly to be worthy of consideration at all. On the other hand, I would point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as earnestly as I can that lie is really doing something to injure what in future may be a very fruitful and considerable source of revenue if he prevents this industry from growing up in Ireland. I am not going to delay the House by going into the history of the tobacco industry in Ireland, but this much I will ask leave to say, that many Trish industries were deliberately put out of existence by this House and the Government of this country. I am not going to enumerate all the industries which were deliberately destroyed through the action of the British Government, but one of those industries, a small one but nevertheless a very promising one, was the Irish tobacco industry. My hon. Friend above the Gangway said that he had smoked some Irish tobacco, and everybody laughed. They seemed to think that it was a good joke, and that they were very glad they themselves had riot smoked it. But, after all, some hon. Members may be surprised to hear, those who are disposed to regard this matter more in the light of a jest than of anything else, that in the beginning of last century the tobacco in dustry in Ireland was a very considerable industry, and gave a large amount of employment. In the county of Wexford between 500 and 1,000 acres were planted with tobacco. At that time, early in the thirties, there was very great distress in Ireland. The people suffered very much, and there was almost a famine in the country, but in those districts where there were tobacco plantations there was absolutely no distress. I would refer any hon. Member who is interested in this matter to the Report of the Parliamentary Committee, which sat and considered the Irish Tobacco Question in 1830, and was presided over by a very celebrated man, namely, Sir Henry Parnell, and the evidence which was given before the Committee, and which may be found in a moment in the library by any hon. Member anxious to inquire into the subject, was that the tobacco industry as far as it had grown in Ireland had given great employment, and in some districts where the plantations were largest the planters and those concerned in the industry came forward, and before a Committee of this House said that the wave of distress which was going over Ireland had left entirely untouched those districts where the tobacco was grown. Men, women, and children of all ages were constantly employed, and the results were of the very best character. Nobody contended that the tobacco industry was not firmly rooted. It was proved beyond all question that tobacco could be splendidly grown in Ireland. People have the idea that in order to grow tobacco successfully there must be almost a tropical country. Nothing of the kind is the case. What is really wanted more than anything, as anybody who knows anything about it will admit, is moisture, and in Ireland there is something in the atmosphere and climate which enables tobacco to grow perhaps better than in any other country in the world. There is then the question of curing and drying. It is the greatest mistake for anyone to imagine that you must have a blazing tropical sun in order to grow tobacco. In many of the great tobacco-growing countries of the world their complaint is that the sun is too strong, and if you go to these countries you will find that they have to spread awnings, and their trouble is to protect the tobacco from the too great heat of the sun. In Ireland tobacco has been most successfully grown. It has been well cured, it has been manufactured, and it has been proved to be a most promising industry.

It was suppressed in the year 1831 by an Act of this House for no earthly reason in the world, except that those in the tobacco industry in this country complained that their business arrangements were deranged by a certain amount of tobacco being smuggled from Ireland into this country. Nobody denied that employment was given; nobody alleged that tobacco could not be successfully grown in Ireland. The only reason given was that it interfered somewhat with the Inland Revenue authorities of this country, and that in Ireland a difficulty was found in locating and registering the areas under tobacco. I am glad to say that the year before last, after very many years' struggle, a Bill was passed through this House doing away with the old injustice and legalising the growth of tobacco once more. I introduced the Bill twelve years ago into this House. Every hon. Member who is a private Member knows what becomes of a. private Member's Bill. Year after year it was blocked, talked out, or objected to. The hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) year after year found fault with this Bill, and at last I found him in an amiable moment and in a complacent mood, and he was good enough to allow this Bill to pass. I believe it was called an Act of Edward VII. passed by this House. I always regard it as an Act passed by the hon. Member for the City of London, because but for him it certainly never would have become law. Perhaps the hon. Member for the City of London will later on remind me of the Bills which I assisted in getting passed in return, but that is neither here nor there. The Government are paid the full duty on the Irish-grown tobacco, and made merely a rebate of 2d. to meet any extra expense that might be put on the growers on account of the new Excise regulations. That was until last year, and now the proposal is to put 8d. a lb. on this new industry. I submit that this is a perfectly unjust, unfair, and unreasonable proposition. The Irish tobacco growers do not want exceptional treatment. ["Oh."] They do not. They have told me over and over again that they would not have gone into the matter at all if they had not sincerely believed that when well established they will he able to compete with foreign tobacco, and that within a certain number of years they will be able to pay any tax which you impose on foreign grown tobacco. The gentlemen who have taken up this industry in Ireland have spent large sums of money out of their own pockets. They have brought expert tobacco growers from different parts of the world, and they are seriously engaged in the industry. What do they ask? They simply ask that while the whole thing is being built up you shall not crush it down and destroy it by an extra burden of taxation. Is there anything unreasonable in that demand? Is there anything really contrary to the principle of Free Trade in that demand? Remember, this industry was deliberately broken down and abolished in Ireland by an Act of this House. We are now, long afterwards, having had that Act repealed, endeavouring to build this little industry up again. We say, "Though you be opposed to Protection, we think you are bound in justice to make some reparation to help us to build up this industry which you yourselves wanted to destroy by Act of Parliament."

I do not deny for a moment that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has gone some way to help us in this matter. He has given for a number of years a grant to certain of those who grow tobacco in Ireland. Lord Ritchie was the first to recognise the claim of this industry, and the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), who I am glad to see in his place, followed the policy of Lord Ritchie by also recognising that something must be done, and he gave a rebate of 1s. per 1b. while this industry was in its experimental stage. The present growers, as the Vice-President of the Agricultural Department can tell us, has undoubtedly received the substantial grant given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year. We acknowledge that we are quite ready to admit that the right hon. Gentleman has gone a long way towards recognising our claim; but at the same time the old growers of tobacco, and those who are anxious to embark in the industry, and who have been encouraged by the success of the old growers, say, and I believe say with absolute truth, that in spite of the grant which the right hon. Gentleman has given, and which was very good last year with the then taxation, will not be sufficient now if you are going to impose an additional tax of 8d. per 1b. on the tobacco they grow. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to reduce the tax which was put on last year and the year before, not to take a penny off, but to leave it exactly as it is; only do not put an additional burden of 8d. per 1b. upon this struggling country. If you do, in spite of the grant you have given tobacco planting in Ireland will not spread, and the industry, I fear, will fall out of existence. I would like to say to the right hon. Gentleman, and to any Member of the House, that my hon. Friends and myself would be delighted during the summer months to bring any of them to the tobacco-growing districts in Ireland. I am sure any of them who come will be delighted by what they will see. They will observe the tobacco not only most successfully grown, but what will give them greater pleasure still, they will see hundreds of men women, and children busily employed. I know one gentleman in Meath who has grown tobacco, the Lieutenant of the County, Colonel Nugent Everard, who employs over 150 men. He stated on many occasions to me and in the public press: — The emigration danger and difficulty does not exist in my district at all. Wherever labour is to be had or people wish to work I can find them employment. It is a busy hive of industry. You might imagine yourself in any country, no sign of poverty, no sign of discontent, a busy, contented, and happy people, working many of them, families together, fathers and mothers and their children engaged in this healthy occupation, keeping the homes together, avoiding the emigrant ship, and at the same time carrying on a considerable and young industry. That applies to many parts of Ireland. It applies to Limerick, where Lord Dunraven has spent much time and money to this matter. It applies to County Wexford, where the matter has been taken up by a number of farmers who have clubbed together, and in a co-operative society have grown tobacco. In many other parts it is like that.

Unfortunately it is not in my power or in the power of any Member to influence this House or to change the decisions of the Government, but I do say here most earnestly that it will be a heart-breaking thing; it will really be a shame and a disgrace to this great and powerful country, and to this great and powerful Government, if they allow any prejudice whatever to lead them into a course of action which will throw men and women in Ireland out of employment, and which will strangle an industry which promises to grow, and which in the years to come some of the most responsible men in the country predict will give employment to hundreds and thousands of the people.

I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with all the force I can command, at any rate to-night, to give us some encouragement, to say that he will, between this and the consideration of his Finance Bill, consider whether it is not possible, consistently with his Free Trade principles and the principles of his Friends behind him, to help us to build up this industry which, remember, was broken down wantonly by this House. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that if he will remember that this matter is still in the experimental stage he will find no difficulty, without outraging any Free Trade principle, in at least for a period of years saying, "We will impose no heavy burden on this young industry, we will allow it to stand erect and upright, and then when it is able to hold its own with its long-established competitors we will call upon it to bear the burden which we put in accordance with our principles upon the imported article from foreign countries. "There is no breach of Free Trade in that; there is only justice. I earnestly appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider what I have said, and I beg to move the Amendment.


In seconding this Amendment I desire to disclaim any intention whatever of supporting any action contrary to the principle of Free Trade. I have no desire whatever to see established in my country any industry that will not stand the test of time and circumstance, or is not indigenous to the place and soil. I have read what occurred to the industries of Ireland in the past, and he would be indeed a poor friend of Ireland who sought to see established in that country industries that might suffer in the future by any change in the fiscal circumstances of this country. It may be that industries would be established if the policy of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway prevailed, but in the changefulness of time we have no certainty that this country will be consistent with any fiscal policy whatever. I know that in the early part of the last century flourishing industries in Ireland were destroyed by reason of a change of fiscal policy in England. If I thought that the tobacco industry established in Ireland by the false assistance of Protection would depend for its existence in the future upon a continuance of that policy, I would not support the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I believe the support which he seeks is sincerely asked for by him. merely as a tentative and fleeting protection of an infant and experimental industry. If that were not so, I would, indeed resist the proposal with all the power at my command. It may be said that what is asked for amounts to a subsidy of this. infant industry. Well, it is only a very small one. I believe that that suggestion has been made before. But even though it be but a small one, I would resist it on principle if it were to be permanent.

I can bear out what my hon. Friend (Mr. W. Redmond) has said with regard to the suitability of the climate of Ireland for the successful production of tobacco. I remember in my young days having it from my grandfather, who himself early last century was a tobacco grower, that never in the course of his manhood and old age could he find a foreign manufactured or foreign-grown tobacco equal to that which he produced upon his own small plantation in the South of Ireland. Whenever he smoked foreign manufactured tobacco he gravely complained about its quality, and compared it disadvantageously with that which he had himself produced in his early days. I am, therefore, convinced upon this first - hand authority, that it is possible to grow the plant successfully in Ireland. With regard to its. preparation, I know from experience that the Irish people can be taught any manufacture in which the exercise of either strength or intelligence is needed to produce and prepare the article for export or consumption at home. My hon. Friend has referred to the treatment of Irish manufactures in the past. It is very deplorable to read of the many manufactures which Ireland had in the early part of the last century— manufactures which had survived for a short time the Union of the two Parliaments. This House has often heard how, say a couple of centuries ago, the manufactures of Ireland were destroyed, but we do not need to go so far back as that. Ireland has suffered with her industries by reason of the Act of Union, when there was taken from the industries of Ireland that foster-care which Parliament alone can give. I will not trouble the House at this late hour with many facts or figures relating to those manufactures. There is no sadder reading for Irishmen than that of the early part of last century, that speaks of these flourishing manufactures, and that relates their cruel and unutterable destruction. I will not weary the House by referring further to them. But I do desire to enforce the argument put forward that this House and this country is under an obligation to Ireland, which it may to some small extent discharge by passing the Motion of my hon. Friend; and I should like in an especial manner to appeal to the Gentlemen above the Gangway on this side of the House. I should like to tell them of a man who once entertained a great desire to encourage Ireland. He sat upon those Opposition Benches. I allude to the late Mr. Hanbury, who occupied the position of Financial Secretary to the Treasury many years ago. He came to me in the Library. It was after the great debacle of 1886, when the party now sitting opposite were so sorely defeated. Mr. Hanbury said to me: "O'Connor, I have been reading the history of your country during the Recess. I have read of the great success of your manufactures. I have read how they have been so cruelly destroyed by the legislation of this country; and I have come to the conclusion that if it should ever be in my power I will give my convictions a chance. I have come to the conclusion that this country can never tax itself sufficiently to make compensation for our cruel conduct towards your industries in the past." That was the opinion of Mr. Hanbury. I do say this, as having some experience of his conduct when he had the power, and when he filled a responsible position in the Government, that he never failed to avail himself of every opportunity that his great position gave him to help Ireland in every substantial way that he could and that his position enabled him to do.

That is the conduct that we ask the whole House to follow. That is the attitude, the sympathetic attitude that we ask this House to assume towards Ireland. That is the obligation that we say that this House is under to Ireland—by sympathy and exceptional treatment—because my Friend asks for exceptional treatment —to undo, if possible, in some slight degree, the injury of the past by doing not only justice, but a little more than justice.

Question put: "That 3s. 6d. stand part of the Question."


I cannot speak upon this matter like my hon. Friend the Member for East Clare (Mr. William Redmond) with the authority of a tobacco grower, because he is, as the House knows, interested in a plantation, although his financial interest in the matter is. Limited—


No, no; I am not one of the growers.


I know that; but I mean that my hon. Friend takes a great interest in a small plantation in Ireland. I was glad to hear an hon. Member say that what was wanted in Ireland was to make two blades of grass grow now where only one grew before. What we really want in Ireland is a man who will make something else grow where grass grows now, such as Colonel Everard is doing. My hon. Friend the Member for East Clare spoke of the peace that reigned in the neighbourhood of Colonel Everard's property — I think he is the only landlord in the county Meath whose cattle has not been driven in the course of the last two years. I am glad to know that Colonel Everard is carrying on this tobacco growing industry in a pretty extensive way. He is specialising now, and he is growing in the South of Ireland a kind of Turkish tobacco for cigarettes, which, so far, has gone exceedingly well, and which it is hard to distinguish from the ordinary Turkish. I saw them on sale some time ago in this House, so that hon. Members can take a practical opportunity of testing for themselves their excellence. We understand the preference of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Free Trade, but in this case Free Trade is not at stake. Free Trade assumes that trade has had its chance in the open market. We are not coming to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking him to help us to revive one of the industries that has been killed by the legitimate or semi-legitimate war of commerce. This is an industry that was smashed and ended suddenly by an Act of Parliament, and, therefore, it had not the commercial chance that foreign tobacco has had. The industry of growing tobacco it Ireland cannot be compared with the industry in the West Indies or in any of the tropical countries; it is comparable with the industry in America. It is worth while knowing that tobacco is essentially a small-man crop in America. It is not a speciality of one man. The parcels of tobacco grown in this way in America do not go to the manufacturer direct; they go to the rehandler, and then to the manufacturer. In Ireland we have the grower and the manufacturer, but we have not got the rehandler— the man who deals with the moisture and the sweating and so forth I think we are entitled to say that until the industry is fully developed, and until the area in cultivation is considerably larger than at present, that the question of Free Trade does not arise. I think my hon. Friend has made out a good case for giving Ireland exceptional treatment, and I add my supplications to those which he has put forward on behalf of the cause which he has always so strenuously supported.


I beg to move the adjournment of the Debate.

The SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Charles Hobhouse)

All those hon. Members who have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Clare in moving this Amendment must have recognised how completely he has made this subject his own, and they must also have recognised the great depth of feeling and sincerity of purpose he has put into the good work he has accomplished not only for Ireland, but more particularly for that part of the country which he represents. Anyone who was present during the discussion upon an earlier Amendment, which was withdrawn, by the hon. Member opposite, and who listened also to the Debate upon a previous Amendment, must have been struck by the way in which the appetite for preference grows. We started with a preference for Colonial tobacco under the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite over foreign and home-grown tobacco.


No; not homegrown tobacco.


Yes; over foreign tobacco and home-grown. [Cries of "No."] I assert that the effect of the original Amendment would have been to give a preference to Colonial tobacco over home and foreign tobacco. Then we came to the proposal in regard to which the Mover made a speech but did not press his Amendment, which would have given a preference to home-grown tobacco over Colonial and foreign tobacco, and that is the second kind of preference which has been put forward to-night. Now we come to the third kind of preference, which would give a preference to Irish tobacco over Scotch, colonial, and foreign tobacco.


If the hon. Member will look at my Amendment he will see that its effect would be to deal with tobacco grown in Scotland and England as well if it were thought desirable.


The hon. Member proposes to take out the duties now existing and to put in other duties.


Yes, but the duties which are fixed by my Amendment will be applicable to tobacco grown in England and Scotland, as well as Ireland.


I think the effect of the Amendment is as I have already stated, but whatever difference there may be between us upon that small point there can be no possible doubt that the hon. Member's proposal would give a very large measure of protection to tobacco principally grown in Ireland and grown in the United Kingdom over foreign and colonial tobacco. That may meet the views of hon. Members sitting on the Opposition side of the House, but it is quite unthinkable that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could accept a proposal of that sort, however beneficial it might be to the local industries of Ireland, having regard to the views he has so often and so successfully stated in this House, and to protect which the Ministerial party were returned to power four years ago. The question arises whether if all this protection were given it would promote not the growth, but the sale of tobacco. A great deal has been said about making two blades of grass grow where one grew before. Some hon. Members behind me remind me that the result might be not the growth of two blades of grass but of two weeds.


Two fragrant weeds.


The question is not how many blades you can grow, but how many you can sell. If you gain all the protection asked for the question will arise whether there will be any increase in the sale of the tobacco that might be grown and cured in Ireland. I suggest to the hon. Member that he and his friends who are so vitally interested in this question should turn their attention not to a deferential duty, but to induce the Irish Agricultural Department to greatly improve the soil and the quality of the tobacco produced. Efforts in that direction would help the growth of tobacco in Ireland infinitely more than any protection. The hon. Gentleman acknowledged the assistance which has been given by the Government to the industry. When the Bill of which he was the author was passed the immediate effect was to procure for Irish tobacco a rebate of a shilling. That rebate was withdrawn, and there was substituted a preference of two pence a pound on the Excise duty. The Government were not content to stop even at that point. They gave a substantial grant of £6,000 a year until 1913, in order to encourage the experimental growth of tobacco in Ireland, and have provided for buildings for the storing and curing of Irish tobacco. So that really a substantial concession has been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the promotion of the growth of tobacco in Ireland.


My suggestion is this, that you are really undoing a great deal of the good by putting 8d. additional tax on. if you had left the tax as it was there would have been no reason to complain.


Had the proposal of the Government been to put a tax on Irish tobacco, which it was not proposed to put on tobacco grown in the Colonies or abroad, it might have been considered that we were putting a heavy and unfair penalty; but seeing that we are imposing on Irish tobacco the same duty as upon that grown elsewhere, all I can say is that while it may be a heavy blow on tobacco, it is not a blow which can possibly hurt the growth of Irish tobacco as distinguished from other tobacco. For the reasons I have given and in view of the particular help which we have given to Irish tobacco during the last year, my right lion. Friend regrets he is unable to accept the Amendment.

Question proposed: "That '3s. 6d.' stand part of the Resolution:"—Debate arising;

Debate to be resumed To-morrow (25th May).