HC Deb 24 July 1912 vol 41 cc1146-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, under the recent Ceylon Excise Ordinance, the Government of Ceylon will provide central distillery buildings and plant and, if so, at what estimate of cost; whether the number of liquor shops has been largely increased by the establishment of separate toddy shops which did not exist before; whether it is the policy of the Excise Department to cheapen the cost of toddy to the drinker to 5d. a gallon or less; and on what Department rests the responsibility of reporting and checking any increase of drunkenness?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Harcourt)

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, but the system can only be introduced gradually, and no estimate of the cost is available. As regards the second part, I would explain that previously the arrack and toddy rents have been sold together. It has now been decided to separate them, and it is therefore necessary to make separate provision for the sale of toddy. This necessarily involves an increase in the number of licensed houses, but the number of licensed places in which arrack can be obtained and the number in which toddy can be obtained will not be similarly increased, since toddy will not be obtainable at an arrack shop or arrack at a toddy shop. Further, owing to the prevention of the illicit sales which have been rife in the past, the total number of places at which liquor can be obtained will be greatly reduced. As regards the third part of the question, I am not aware that any figure has been suggested. It is the policy of the Government of Ceylon to discourage the drinking of arrack and to induce people, if they must drink, to drink toddy, a comparatively harmless beverage, the sale of which has been discouraged in the past by the arrack renters. The control of drunkards will rest, as in the past, on the police. It is confidently expected that the new system will lead to a great decrease in drunkenness.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a very large volume of dissatisfaction with the new Ordinance in Ceylon; and can he say from what section of the community that dissatisfaction comes?


I interviewed yesterday a gentleman representing the volume of dissatisfaction, and I hope I was able to remove some of it.


What is toddy; is it Scotch?


No, Sir, it is quite a different beverage. It is quite unsuitable to Scotchmen.


Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly say what it is?


It is a product of the palm tree.