HC Deb 27 October 1909 vol 12 cc1089-94

(1) It shall be the duty of the secretary of every registered club to deliver to the Commissioners, in the month of January in every year or within such further time as the Commissioners may in any case allow, a statement of the purchases during the preceding calendar year of intoxicating liquor to be supplied in or to the club or on behalf of the club to the members thereof, in such form and containing such particulars as may be prescribed by the Commissioners, and every such statement shall be charged with an Excise Duty of sixpence for every pound of the purchases shown in the statement.

(2) If the secretary of a club fails to deliver a statement in accordance with this Section, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, and in the case of a second or subsequent offence to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding one month or to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds or to both, and if he knowingly delivers a statement which is in any material particular untrue, he shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding three months, or to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds, or to both imprisonment and fine.

(3) If any duty under this Section remains unpaid after the first day of March in any year, the duty may be levied by distress on the premises of the club in respect of which the duty is due, and the collector of Customs and Excise may, for that purpose, by warrant signed by him, authorise any person to distrain upon the premises, and to sell any distress levied by public auction, after giving six days' previous notice of the sale:

The proceeds of the sale shall be applied in or towards payment of the costs and expenses of the distress and sale, and the payment of the duty due, and the surplus, if any, shall be paid to the secretary of the club, and treated by him as part of the funds of the club.

(4) If any duty payable under this Section remains unpaid after the first day of March in any year, or if the secretary of a club fails in any year to deliver a statement as required by this Section, the supply of any intoxicating liquor in the club shall, so long as the duty remains unpaid, or the failure continues, as the case may be, be deemed to be a sale of intoxicating liquor without a licence.

(5) The Commissioners may make regulations for adapting the provisions of this Section to the case of a club which is discontinued as a registered club during any calendar year, and for procuring a statement under this Section of the purchases of intoxicating liquor up to the date of the discontinuance of the club as a registered club, and for charging the duty under this Section in respect of that statement.

(6) The clerk by whom any register of clubs is kept shall send notice to the Commissioners of the entry of any new club, and of any case in which a club ceases to be registered, upon the register kept by him.

Mr. HUNT moved, to leave out Sub-section (1).

I move this Amendment to a Clause which adds still further taxation to the beer and spirits consumed by working men in their clubs. The additional taxation of the Budget on spirits is already about 100 per cent., and in the case of very cheap spirits even more, and certainly it seems to me to be outrageous that the Government, having already put very heavy taxation on the beer and spirits consumed by the working men, and not a halfpenny on the importation of champagne and the wines of the rich people, should still put further taxation on working men in their clubs I am free to confess that I cannot understand even a Radical Government doing that. I should be quite willing to put heavier taxes than are put on under the Budget on the wines that are used in clubs, if only because there is no new import tax put on the wines at all under the Budget. But it seems to me that the new double tax on the forms of alcohol used by the poor in their clubs must be entirely wrong, and I shall be very much astonished if the right hon. Gentleman sitting opposite me does not see it. How this part of the Budget can be called democratic is altogether beyond me. I do not believe anybody can explain it. Of course it may possibly make whisky and other spirits so very dear that working people will either have to buy very bad spirits or else will not be able to buy them at all. In the latter case—which seems to have happened all over the country—the Government really are tyrannising over the working classes. I cannot believe that any Government has any right to make one class, and one class only, sober by Act of Parliament. It is grandmotherly legislation, and that of the very worst sort. It penalises the kind of alcohol that the poor drink and lets the rich practically off altogether.


I beg formally to second the Amendment.


The Amendment is not one which I think the House will be disposed seriously to consider. The Government have been attacked again and again from the benches opposite for their unfair discrimination in favour of clubs. But it is the first time that in this Finance Bill a tax is imposed upon the intoxicating liquors that are supplied in clubs of all classes. Now comes the hon. Gentleman opposite—speaking from benches from which so many of these denunciations have previously been heard—proposing to abolish this tax altogether, except on wines, cider, and sweets or British wines. Beer and spirits are to be free altogether. Even more strange, this Amendment is seconded—it is true, merely by a gesture—by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Joynson-Hicks, who last year was one of the most impassioned and bitter of the opponents of working men's clubs who addressed this House. The hon. Gentleman proposed last year to charge every working man's club the same Licence Duty as public-houses, and to impose upon the clubs precisely the same conditions. It is true that when the moment came to move the Amendment he folded his tent like the Arabs, And as silently stole away. But the fact remains that on various occasions be did vigorously denounce the Government for their favouritism of clubs, and now he seconds an Amendment to take the new Licence Duties altogether off working men's clubs. Of course the Government cannot accept this Amendment. The hon. Member who moved it made his speech on the question of differentiation between the rich man's wine and the poor man's beer and spirits. That may be a proper subject for debate, but it is certainly not a proper subject for debate upon this Clause, because this Clause treats the rich man's club in precisely the same way as it treats the poor man's club. The bottle of champagne will have to pay precisely the same ad valorem duty as a glass of beer.


May I, with the permission of the House, as the right hon. Gentleman referred to me, say a word. I seconded the Amendment pro forma because I thought my hon. Friend was entitled to have some reply to his Amendment on a point with which I have some little sympathy in regard to differentiation between the rich man's wine and the poor man's beer and spirits. I am not going into the whole question of clubs, but I really protest against the description the right hon. Gentleman gave of me as being a bitter opponent of workmen's clubs. If the right hon. Gentleman would refer to my speech, he would see I only declaimed against badly conducted clubs. I never said anything against ordinary working men's clubs, and my endeavours this year and last were to make restriction on clubs so efficacious as would interfere only with the badly conducted clubs. My action had nothing to do with well-conducted workmen's clubs.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: In Sub-section (2), after the word "Section" ["a statement in accordance with this Section"], to insert the words "after a notice in writing from the Commissioners requiring him so to do has been served on him, either by leaving it at the club premises or by sending it to him by post addressed to the club."—[Mr. Herbert Samuel.]

At the end of Sub-section (3), to insert the words: "Provided that a distress shall not be levied under this provision unless notice in writing requiring the payment of the amount of duty unpaid has been served on the secretary of the club by leaving the notice at the club premises or by sending it to him by post addressed to the club."—[Mr. Herbert Samuel.]

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