HC Deb 28 October 1909 vol 12 cc1244-9

(1) In addition to the duties of Customs payable on spirits imported into Great Britain or Ireland there shall as from the thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and nine be charged, levied, and paid, the duties specified in Part I. of the Third Schedule to this Act.

(2) The duties of Customs on the articles mentioned in Part II. of the Third Schedule to this Act, being articles in which spirit is contained, or in the manufacture of which spirit is used, shall be proportionately increased, and there shall accordingly be charged, levied, and paid the duties specified in that Part of he Schedule.

(3) In addition to the Excise Duty payable for every gallon computed at proof of spirits distilled in the United Kingdom there shall, as from the thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and nine, be-charged, levied, and paid an Excise Duty of three shillings and ninepence, and so on in proportion for any less quantity.

Mr. GEORGE YOUNGER moved, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the words "three shillings and ninepence," and to insert instead thereof the words "one shilling."

I do not move the Amendment in the slightest hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be likely to accept it, particularly after the revised estimate which he presented the other day. Still, I think it is necessary to make perfectly clear that the impolicy of this duty remains exactly the same. The right hon. Gentleman has entirely disregarded the ordinary view of great financiers on questions of taxation. He has taxed to death an article which was diminishing in demand, and I am afraid has aggravated the difficulties of the trade by reducing the consumption of this article to a much greater extent than he or anyone thought of. I believe if the right hon. Gentleman had confined himself to 1s. he would have got more money, and would not have so seriously injured the trade. In the ease of numbers of distilleries there are no orders, and in one district where the population largely depend upon the distilleries they are looking forward to the winter with apprehension. If the Treasury had been able to derive advantage from this tax, it might have been excused, but I doubt very much whether the right hon. Gentleman will even obtain the £800,000 which he hopes to get from this tax, because the stocks will be worked down to the very lowest possible point between now and 31st March in the hope that the experience of this year will induce the right hon. Gentleman, or his successor, to reduce the tax in the forthcoming financial year. There can be no forestalment of any kind on this account that no extra tax is ever likely to be put on, and if anything is likely to happen it is a reduction. Under those circumstances there will be from now to the end of the financial year the very lowest possible withdrawal from bond rather than forestalments, as usually happens, in nearly every year where the revenue is expected to be somewhat short, and with the apprehension that an increased tax would be placed on it. I do think, while it is hopeless to expect the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a reduction this year, that he would be better off if he did, and I believe it would restore the balance of trade. I do not suppose he will agree with that. This Amendment is moved in order to express objection to the manner in which this tax penalises an important industry in Scotland. It is, I think, financially rather an act of stupidity on the part of the Government.


I have pleasure in seconding the Amendment, because I believe that this tax, supposing it is imposed for the purpose of revenue, will not carry out the object for which it is imposed. I propose to devote my arguments entirely to the revenue question. I do not see any hon. Members in the House who supported this tax for other objects, but I presume that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in furtherance of the duties of his office, desires to impose this tax for financial reasons, and for financial reasons only. I admit that that is rather a large assumption, but for the purpose of my argument I propose to make it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated at the beginning in his Budget statement that the yield of this tax would amount this year to an increase of £1,600,000. He did not make any estimate of what the tax would yield in the following year or the year after, although he did so in nearly every other case in the White Paper which he circulated, and which, if I may be allowed to say so, was a great convenience, and will, I hope, be followed in the future. He told us a few days ago that his estimate was wrong, and that the yield would only amount to £800,000. No doubt he had very excellent reason for making that statement, but, as he has made one mistaken statement, it does not follow that he has not made another. I admit my confidence is rather shaken in the ability of the officials to prophesy as to the result of the Spirit Duty, inasmuch as they have had two shots at it in six months, and the first shot was entirely wrong, so that I do not see any reason why the second shot should not be equally wrong.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree with me, I think, when I say that every Chancellor of the Exchequer, almost from time immemorial, has held that to propose a tax upon an article falling in consumption was not a proper way to bring about an increase of the revenue; but that, on the contrary, such a course would bring about a decrease. That has been shown to be a wise statement by the-fact that this increaes of 3s. 9d. has not brought about anything like the increase which the Chancellor of the Exchequer supposed it would. It must not be forgotten that the Chancellor told us that not only was he going to make out of this tax, but that the publicans and the distillers were also going to recoup themselves by the-increased price which they would put on the article. Of course they all assumed that there would be no reduction in the consumption, or very little. I believe the right hon. Gentleman did say he anticipated a certain amount of reduction, but he could not have anticipated what occurred or he would not have made that statement about the distillers and publicans recouping themselves. I presume he does not make that statement now.

As far as I know I can only speak for one particular company with which I am connected which sells liquors in the hotels and refreshment-rooms of the Great Northern Railway, and we have found that our consumption decreased very much, and that though we have increased our prices we have got less of revenue and we are receiving less than last year, notwithstanding the fact that we have increased our prices. I presume that is going on all over the country. I think if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to increase his revenue the wisest thing he could do would be to reduce this sum to 1s., or something of that kind. If he retains the 3s. 9d. I do rot think he will get the £800,000. I observe the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Charles Roberts) present, and I would like to know whether this tax is going to carry out the object he has in view, because if it is it is going to diminish the revenue, and therefore the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not get any increase out of it.


I gather that the object of the hon. Member who moved this Amendment is rather to register a final protest than to initiate a Debate on this tax. We have already had five Debates on it, and, in addition, I have not the faintest doubt that we shall have another Debate to-morrow when we come to the question of the Sinking Fund. Many of the questions

dealt with now must inevitably arise to-morrow, which makes it very difficult for me to enter on the questions which formed a good deal of the speeches which have been delivered on this. Amendment, and which have been directed rather to the estimates. I have no doubt I shall have to go into that matter at some length tomorrow, and if the House will permit me I would rather not enter into it to-night. I hope right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will not regard me as treating them with any discourtesy for not entering into it at the present moment. It is very difficult to dissociate the rest of the argument from this, and in that case I should prefer to deal with it to-morrow.

Question put, "That the words 'three shillings and ninepence,' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 197; Noes, 59.

Division No. 862.] AYES. [7.27 p.m.
Abraham, William (Rhondda) Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) King, Alfred John (Knutsford)
Acland, Francis Dyke Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Laidlaw, Robert
Ainsworth, John Stirling Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall) Lambert, George
Alden, Percy Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Lamont, Norman
Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch) Elibank, Master of Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Essex, R. W. Lehmann, R. C.
Asquith Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Esslemont, George Birnie Levy, Sir Maurice
Astbury, John Meir Evans, Sir S. T. Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David
Atherley-Jones, L. Everett, R. Lacey Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Falconer, J. Lynch, H. B.
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Ferens, T. R. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)
Barker, Sir John Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Barnard, E. B. Findlay, Alexander M'Callum, John M.
Barnes, G. N. Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)
Barran, Rowland Hirst Fuller, John Michael F. Maddison, Frederick
Beauchamp, E. Fullerton, Hugh Mallet, Charles E
Beck, A. Cecil Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)
Bell, Richard Glendinning, R. G. Marnham, F. J.
Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport) Glover, Thomas Massie, J.
Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.) Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Middlebrook, William
Bennett, E. N. Greenwood, G. (Peterborough) Mond, A.
Berridge, T. H. D. Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Montgomery, H. G.
Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford) Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)
Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon) Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Morrell, Philip
Black, Arthur W. Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Bowerman, C. W. Hardy, George A. (Suffolk) Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)
Brace, William Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) Myer, Horatio
Brigg, John Haslam, James (Derbyshire) Napier, T. B.
Brooke, Stopford Haworth, Arthur A. Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Helme, Norval Watson Norman, Sir Henry
Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire) Henry, Charles S. Nussey, Sir Willans
Bryce, J. Annan Herbert T. Arnold (Wycombe) Nuttall, Harry
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Higham, John Sharp O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles Hobart, Sir Robert O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)
Byles, William Pollard Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Parker, James (Halifax)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Hodge, John Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Hooper, A. G. Pollard, Dr. G. H.
Cheetham, John Frederick Horniman, Emslie John Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Clough, William Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Cobbold, Felix Thornley Hudson, Walter Raphael, Herbert H.
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Hutton, Alfred Eddison Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester)
Compton-Rickett, Sir J. Hyde, Clarendon G. Rendall, Athelstan
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Illingworth, Percy H. Richards, Thomas (W. Monmouth)
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Isaacs, Rufus Daniel Richardson, A.
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Jackson, R. S. Ridsdale, E. A.
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Jardine, Sir J. Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Cox, Harold Johnson, John (Gateshead) Robinson, S.
Cross, Alexander Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Robson, Sir William Snowdon
Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Roe, Sir Thomas
Rogers, F. E. Newman Stanley, Hon. A. Lyulph (Cheshire) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Rose, Sir Charles Day Steadman, W. C. Waterlow, D. S.
Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Summerbell, T. White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)
Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford) Sutherland, J. E. Whitehead, Rowland
Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe) Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel) Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.) Wilkie, Alexander
Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester) Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.) Williamson, Sir A.
Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne) Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E.) Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Seely, Colonel Toulmin, George Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)
Shackleton, David James Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
Sherwell, Arthur James Villiers, Ernest Amherst Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Shipman, Dr. John G. Vivian, Henry Wood, T. McKinnon
Silcock, Thomas Ball Wadsworth, J. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Simon, John Allsebrook Walker, H. de R. (Leicester)
Snowden, P. Walsh, Stephen TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.
Soames, Arthur Wellesley Wardle, George J.
Stanger, H. Y. Waring, Walter
Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.) Ginnell, L. Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Balcarres, Lord Goulding, Edward Alfred Percy, Earl
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.) Gretton, John Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gwynn, Stephen Lucius Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Hamilton, Marquess of Renwick, George
Bellairs, Carlyon Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Bignold, Sir Arthur Hay, Hon. Claude George Rutherford, John (Lancashire)
Bull, Sir William James Hills, J. W. Rutherford, Watson (Liverpool)
Butcher, Samuel Henry Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)
Carlile, E. Hildred Hunt, Rowland Stanier, Beville
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Kimber, Sir Henry Starkey, John R.
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.) Stone, Sir Benjamin
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worcs'r) Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Coates, Major E. F. (Lewisham) Lonsdale, John Brownlee Walrond, Hon. Lionel
Craik, Sir Henry Lynch, A. (Clare, W.) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh Younger, George
Doughty, Sir George M'Arthur, Charles
Faber, George Denison (York) Mason, James F. (Windsor)
Fell, Arthur Morpeth, Viscount TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Viscount Valentia and Mr. H. W. Forster.
Fletcher, J. S. Nolan, Joseph
Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)