§ The Duty of Customs payable on tea until the first day of July nineteen hundred and twelve, under the Finance Act, 1911, shall be deemed to have been continued as from that date and shall continue to be charged, levied, and paid until the first day of July nineteen hundred and thirteen, on the importation thereof into Great Britain or Ireland (that is to say):—
§ Tea, the pound Fivepence1540
§ The CHAIRMAN
The first Amendment on the Paper on this Clause stands in the name of the hon. Member for Yarmouth. He will recollect that last year he had a similar Amendment on the Paper, and on the ground that it had been discussed and divided upon in the House on the Report of Ways and Means, I ruled that he could not move it in Committee. At that time an appeal was made to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire, and the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), to further consider the point of Order then raised. I have done so, and I have come to the conclusion that there may be cases in which the Committee may be rightly desirous, under special circumstances, of dealing again with the question, although it has already been dealt with on Report of Ways and Means. For that reason I do not propose to rule the hon. Member for Yarmouth out of order. At the same time I would point out that this matter was debated and decided on 24th June, less than five weeks ago, and I think, unless there is any new matter to be discussed, I might suggest to the hon. Member whether it is desirable to debate the question again.
§ Mr. FELL
I beg to move, after the word "pound" ["Tea, the pound"], to insert the words "if grown within the British Empire, fourpence; if grown without the British Empire."
I am obliged to you, Sir, for the ruling you have given, and I will not abuse in any way the privilege you have accorded me. But this question stands in a different position to what it did in former days, and any privileges we possess in regard to discussing matters and Resolutions and dividing on them on the Committee stage, should not be in any way curtailed, but should, if anything, be extended. What I propose is a reduction of one penny in the duty on tea grown in our Colonies and within the Empire, a reduction, in fact, upon all tea grown in the British Empire. Owing to what may be described as errors or blunders on the part of the Government and to the speeches of one or two hon. Members opposite, the time at our disposal has been shortened, and, therefore, I shall not speak at any length on this proposal, although it is one of very great interest to the whole Empire. We have experienced some difficulty in getting the exact figures of the imports of tea into this country. Many questions have been put in this House, but through the using of 1541 two different dates, the calendar year and the financial year, the information forthcoming has differed very considerably. But we may roughly say that the tea imports into this country from the British Empire amount to about 280,000,000 lbs. a year, and those from China and other foreign countries have grown from 20,000,000 lbs. to 40,000,000 lbs. The last figures I had were 28,000,000 lbs. They have been as high as 44,000,000 lbs., but the outstanding fact is that the imports of tea from China show the substantial increase of 4,000,000 lbs. last year, representing a larger increased consumption than the increase in the consumption of tea grown within the Empire. I hope, however, the Minister in charge will be able to give me the exact figures of the imports. I must reply to one remark made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the last occasion. He said that it is the poorer qualities of China tea which are imported into this country, and therefore the poor people drink it much more than the rich. I contest that altogether. There may be some dusty China tea coming into the country, but the China tea one sees sold everywhere is a higher-priced tea than the British-grown tea. Therefore it is the tea of the rich rather than of the poor. Another point which arises is that at the present time the duty on tea is prominently before the electors of the country. It has been stated on behalf of candidates of the party opposite that they are proposing to take off the taxes on the breakfast table.
§ Mr. FELL
My Amendment will make tea cheaper for the people of this country, because it reduces the duty on tea coming from within the Empire by a penny, and as more than four-fifths of the tea comes from within the Empire, it will affect the price. The penny reduction which I propose will go directly to the consumer. The people concerned in the trade will make slightly more than that penny profit in the reduction of the duty. Less capital will be required in the trade, and when they take tea out of bond they will require less money. They will have larger stocks for the same amount of money, or will carry 1542 the same stocks for a smaller amount of money, and they will be able to allow the whole benefit of the penny to the consumer. It is frequently said with regard to the reduction of a tax that the consumer will not get the whole benefit, but in this case he will. As to Colonial preference, that comes in peculiarly appropriately at the present time, as we have over here the leaders of the great Dominion which started Colonial preference, and which we are now proposing to assist by giving them something in return. Nothing could be more satisfactory than for the country to decide at the present time to give something in return to our Dominions who are giving so much to us. You may say that the preference on tea will not affect Canada, but it will affect India, and it will be a sign to our friends from Canada that we are beginning to take the first opportunity since their arrival here of showing that we propose to give some benefit to those things which are grown within the Empire. We shall be holding out a hand to those who have held out their hands to us all these years. Canada has given us this magnificent preference—
§ Mr. FELL
I do not remember what my colleague said on the last occasion. I thought we could speak again on some subjects in this Session on another stage of the Finance Bill. If not we shall be hampered. I started by saying that under the present conditions I thought we should be given every opportunity of discussing everything in the Budget fully. Of course. I do not wish to weary the Committee with anything that my colleague said. I will conclude by saying that this is the first sign we can give to our friends that we propose to meet them. It is a very small thing, but it will be the sign of some bigger thing to come.
§ Mr. LOUGH
This subject has often been before us, but I do not think it could be raised on a more untimely occasion than the present. If the Motion had been for a, general reduction of the Tea Duty there might be something to be said for it. If our finances permitted, and if there was a million to be given away, I should be ready to support the Motion to reduce the duty to the old figure. This is a proposal to introduce Colonial preference by a side wind. There could not be a more unfortu- 1543 nate time at which to introduce this very doubtful principle. At the present time tea growers in India and Ceylon are having the best time they have ever had in their experience. Their prices are extremely high; their dividends are high, and they are getting a good thing out of the British people. At this moment, when they are reaping this great fortune out of the trade, the hon. Member comes forward and asks for another advantage to be given to them. It is most untimely, it is quite unnecessary, and it would be a burden on our own people. The hon. Member had not the exact figures with regard to the tea trade. Perhaps the Committee will forgive me if I show briefly how the matter stands at present. It is quite true to say that a great deal of the lower-price teas are at present coming from countries other than from India and Ceylon. I believe the prices of Indian and Ceylon teas are only kept within reasonable bounds and kept from going up immensely by the supplies which are coming from the other countries. The figures show that so far as China is concerned the imports were 8.2 millions three years ago, 10.3 millions the year before last and 14.4 millions last year. Therefore there is an increase of 75 per cent, in the consumption of China tea. This great increase is due to the fact that the poor people in this country have been forced to use it. It is not bad tea, because no bad tea is admitted into the country under the Customs Regulations. They have been obliged to go there to get something to protect them from the high prices which India and Ceylon teas have reached. The figures I have given apply to the three years 1909, 1910, and 1911.
Let us look at the other countries which would be affected. Our imports from Java in the same three years increased from 20,100,000 lbs. to 21,100,000 lbs., or an increase of 5 per cent. When we turn to India or Ceylon there has been an increase from 252,000,000 lbs. to 257,000,000 lbs., or only 2 per cent.; so that at present these
§ teas from other countries are extremely useful to the consumers of this country, and they have prevented a great rise which would add pence a pound to the price of tea. I cannot help pointing out also that there are no two countries with whom it is more important for our traders to keep on good relations than the countries which would be affected if such a Resolution as this were carried. These two countries are China and Holland. I cannot speak of China as part of the Empire, but it is a foreign country in which we are greatly interested, and in which we have a Colony which flourishes greatly upon its tea exports. It would be almost as great a scandal to hit China and the trade which comes here from Hankow by a foolish proposal of this kind, as it would be, to deal a blow at Indian or Ceylon. The Chinese are great historic friends of ours, and our Colony there deserves encouragement rather than a blow of this kind. The other country which would be affected is Holland, and Holland is, next to ourselves, the most Free Trade country in the world. With the aid of English capital, they are developing tea grown from seed brought from India, and it has greatly improved in quality, and it is of great benefit to the consumers in this country. Not a shadow of ground has been given broadly for this proposal. It is almost an improper proposal to make to introduce Colonial preference by a side wind of this kind on a single question. It shocks my sense of Parliamentary propriety that it should be brought forward in this way. It is inopportune and unnecessary. There are growers who are bulging fat with the profits they are making. They are doing splendidly. I am sure my right hon. Friend will not entertain the Amendment; but I can assure him there could not be a time when it would be less necessary for the consumers of tea in this country.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 156; Noes, 221.1547
|Division No. 163.]||AYES.||[1.59 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)|
|Altken, Sir William Max||Barnston, Harry||Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc, E.)||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Cassel, Felix|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Cator, John|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Col. J.||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Boyton, Jomes||Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.|
|Baker, Sir Randoll L. (Dorset, N.)||Bridgeman, William Clive||Clay, Captain H. H. Spender|
|Balcarres, Lord||Bull, Sir William James||Clive, Captain Percy Archer|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Burdett-Coutts, William||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Butcher, John George||Courthope, George Loyd|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Inyleby, Holcombe||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, S.)||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Croft, Henry Page||Kerry, Earl of||Royds, Edmund|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Kimber, Sir Henry||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Dixon, Charles Harvey||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Larmor, Sir J.||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Faber, George D. (Clapham)||Lewisham, Viscount||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Falle, Bertram Godfray||Lloyd, George Ambrose||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt-Col. A. R.||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Flannery, Sip J. Fortescue||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Mackinder, Halford||Stewart, Gershom|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||Macmaster, Donald||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Gardner, Ernest||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Magnus, Sir Philip||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Malcolm, lan||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Grant, J. A.||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Greene, W. R.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Valentia, Viscount|
|Gretton, John||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Guinness, Hon.W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Haddock, George Bahr||Neville, Reginald, J. N.||Weigall, Captain A. G.|
|Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Newdegate, F. A.||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Newman, John R. P.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Hamersley, Alfred St. George||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Harris, Henry Percy||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Wood, John (Staiybridge)|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Peel, Hon. William R. W. (Taunton)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Hickman, Colonel Thomas E||Perkins, Walter Frank||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Hill-Wood, Samuel||Peto, Basil Edward||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pole-Carew, Sir R.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Hope, Harry (Bute)||Pretyman, Ernest George||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Horne, W. E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Horner, Andrew Long||Rees, Sir J. D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Remnant, James Farquharson||Fell and Mr. Denniss.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Cotton, William Francis||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Adamson, William||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher T.||Crooks, William||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Crumley, Patrick||Hayward, Evan|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Cullinan, J.||Hazleton, Richard (Galway, N.)|
|Alden, Percy||Davies, Timothy (Louth)||Helme, Sir Norval Watson|
|Allen, A. A. (Dumbartonshire)||Dawes, J. A.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||De Forest, Baron||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Armitage, R.||Delany, William||Henry, Sir Charles S.|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Higham, John Sharp|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Devlin, Joseph||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Baring, Sir Godtrey (Barnstaple)||Dillon, John||Hodge, John|
|Barnes, G. N.||Donelan, Captain A.||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Barton, W.||Duffy, William J.||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Hudson, Walter|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts, St. George)||Elverston, Sir Harold||Hughes, S. L.|
|Bentham, G. J.||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tlpperary, N.)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Jones, Rt.Hon.Sir D.Brynmor (Sw'nsea)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Essex, Richard Walter||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Falconer, J.||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)|
|Boland, John Pius||Farrell, James Patrick||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Fltzglbbon, John||Jowett, F. W.|
|Boyle, D. (Mayo N.)||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Joyce, Michael|
|Brady, P. J.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Keating, M.|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Glanville, H. J.||Kelly, Edward|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Kilbride, Denis|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||King, J. (Somerset, N.)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Lambert, Richard (Cricklade)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe|
|Cameron, Robert||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hackett, J.||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Clough, William||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Low, Sir F. (Norwich)|
|Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Lundon, T.|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Lynch, A. A.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|McGhee, Richard||Nugent. Sir Walter Richard||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Maclean, Donald||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Rowlands, James|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)|
|MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Macpherson, James Ian||O'Doherty, Philip||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||O'Dowd, John||Sheehy, David|
|McCallum, Sir John M.||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|M'Curdy, C. A.||O'Malley, William||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||O'Neill, Dr Charles (Armagh, S.)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||O'Shaughnessy, p. J.||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Manfield, Harry||O'Shee, James John||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||palmer, Godfrey Mark||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Martin, J.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||pointer, Joseph||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||pollard, Sir George H.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Millar, James Duncan||Power, Patrick Joseph||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Molloy, M.||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Wadsworth, J.|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes., Ince)|
|Mooney, J. J.||Pringle, Wm. M. R.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Morrell, Philip||Raphael, Sir Herbert Henry||Wason, John cathcart (Orkney)|
|Morison, Hector||Reddy, Michael||Webb, H.|
|Muldoon, John||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Munro, R.||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Whyte, A. F.|
|Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Nannetti, Joseph P.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Needham, Christopher T.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Neilson, Francis||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Winfrey, Richard|
|Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Nolan, Joseph||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Norman, Sir Henry||Roche, John (Galway E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Roe, Sir Thomas||llingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
§ Sir J. D. REES
I beg to move, to leave out the word "fivepence" ["Tea, the pound … fivepence"], and to insert instead thereof the word "threepence."
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough) just now said that the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend (Mr. Fell) was somewhat inopportune. I think he will make the same criticism in regard to the Amendment I now propose. He spoke from the point of view of the producers and distributers of tea. I am moving this on behalf of the consumers of tea. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the producers and distributers are doing extremely well at present. The planters and owners of tea shares are all making money, and everything with them is prosperous, but the consumers of tea are not doing better than usual, and it is on their behalf I move this reduction of twopence. A penny is overdue. The Prime Minister, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a reduction of a penny, following upon a reduction of twopence made by the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer. It has been held by every Chancellor of the Exchequer, so far as I know, and by those connected with the trade, that it is extremely difficult to pass on a penny to the consumers, and that unless you have a reduction of twopence the distributers do not pass on the reduction to the consumers. The object we 1548 have is to let the consumers have the benefit. The consequence, therefore, was that the reduction of a penny, brought about by the Prime Minister when Chancellor of the Exchequer, pointed to the reduction of another penny, so that twopence might be taken off the price of tea to the consumers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington urged that this was an inopportune time for reducing the taxation on tea. I would admit that, if it was the case that the large surplus which the Government have, and which I think was improperly acquired, because it was due to under-estimating or some cause of that kind, had been devoted at the present crisis to the requirements of the Navy. If it had been devoted to the provision of an extra squadron I should not have proposed this reduction of the Tea Duty now. But as the Government first of all acknowledged that there is a serious crisis, and then said, "We will deal with it next year," and as they at first proposed to devote the surplus of £6,000,000 to something or another, I do not know what, and then finally agreed reluctantly and as an after thought to put it to the reduction of debt, my proposal is that we should leave some of the money in the pockets of the people until it is required for the provision of another squadron.
It is for that reason I move this reduction, which will go to the homes of all the poor people in the country. It will 1549 make the situation easier until the surplus has been, as I think it should by ship building, converted into an equilibrium, or possibly into a deficit. I should have agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite had not the circumstances been of such a character as I have endeavoured briefly to describe to the Committee. I would point out how hard the present duty of 5d. is on the consumers of tea. The 5d. is got alike upon the most expensive descriptions of tea and upon the cheapest and lowest class of tea. It is not levied ad valorem.. It is not tempered to the shorn lamb. Everything is taxed in the same manner, so that the consumers of tea from China with the fine aromatic flavour to which my hon. Friend referred, and of tea from Ceylon with the rough outside leaves, which is sold at a very much lower price, pay the same duty. I admit that this taxation, which is indirect, should be preserved. I am not at all for removing it altogether. I only wish that such a reduction should be made as the financial situation allows, and that if possible that reduction should operate on behalf of the poor. If the money is necessary and has to be raised, I say that tea is a proper commodity on which to levy a duty. I would let part of the surplus money return to the pockets of the people in the way of a reduction of the Tea Duty. While on this I would observe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was entirely mistaken when in introducing the Budget he said there has been a decrease in the production of tea in the East. He was equally wrong in describing that reduction as having taken place in consequence of the conversion of tea estates into rubber estates. What it was due to was simply the fact that large distributers felt that they would only be safe by holding larger stocks out of bond. That accounts for the difference, of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave an entirely wrong explanation. That is by the way, but it is an important question, which tells upon the tea taxation of the year, and it is my duty to refer to it. Upon the point of the hardship of taxing the cheap non-alcoholic drink of the country, I should like to refer the Committee to the consumption per head in 1911. The consumption per head was 6.53 lbs., which is taxed at 5d. per lb. The consumption of coffee per head was 80 lb., on which there is a tax of l½d. per lb. That is a very much lower tax than on tea, although coffee cannot compare with tea as a necessity of the people. 1550 In some countries it does, but in this country it conspicuously does not.
Take the incidence of taxation on different commodities, and you find that that well-known democratic drink, champagne, is taxed 20 per cent, of the value; coffee, which I think would be entitled to more favourable treatment, is taxed 22 per cent.; British beer, 24 per cent.; but when we come to tea it is 55 per cent., and it is only brought down to that figure because the average price has risen very much lately, and, therefore, tea taxation bears a lower ratio to the selling value than it did formerly. The sale price in 1911 was 8.8ld. per lb., and still the taxation is 55 per cent. of the valuation, which is exceedingly high. Such a tax should not be charged, if it, is possible to avoid it, upon the production of British labour, British capital, raised by British subjects in British Possessions, to the extent I think of seven-eighths. This is a temperance product. Though I do not think that beer and other things are inherently wicked, yet to many hon. Gentlemen that would be a strong argument, and every argument that we can think of in this House and that commends itself in any quarter should be used in favour of the reduction of the duty on tea. Though tea is a proper subject of taxation, I submit that this is the proper psychological moment at which we can, for the present at any rate, reduce that tax. On whom does this tax fall? If there is an overproduction of tea I admit that the producer pays, but if there is an equality between supply and demand—though, if anything, I should say that the supply is rather less than the demand at present—in either case the consumer pays. The explanation is very simple. Owing to the very heavy taxation in recent years all the planters in India, from whom the greater part of the tea comes, abstained from extending and also reduced the areas under cultivation. Tea is a plant which takes five years to come into bearing, and consequently the effects of these reductions are only now being felt. So though there is a very big boom in tea, it must not be supposed that there is any over-production. Such, indeed, is very far from being the case.
It is also the case that planters have set to work to find new markets abroad. Russia is a continually improving market, and so far from there being an over-production of tea, there is to some extent a shortage. Again, it is extremely difficult to make large extensions of tea, because 1551 the labour difficulties from which we suffer in this country are extending in other countries and are met with in Assam and in other parts of India where the tea chiefly grows. The result has been that the supply has not kept pace with the demand, prices are high, and the duty of 5d. per lb. makes the burden exceptionally heavy. As regards statistics, at the moment they are somewhat confused on account of the strike in the East End of London. Take another result of the heavy duty which has a prejudicial effect upon the poor in this country. Considerable quantities of the lowest class of China tea are coming in. I am not here to depreciate China tea. Far from it. I pin my own faith on Indian tea, of which I have seen most and with which it is only right to say I have some connection in some large companies. But I do not think that in the slightest degree affects my credibility as a witness, though it shows I have some ground for knowing something about it. But the kind of China tea introduced at a time of high prices in this country is the kind of tea which I really depreciate. It is a kind of rubbishy tea which they will not have in the United States of America and many other countries, which somehow gets in here because our pure food laws are not so stringent or efficient, and it is mixed with the Indian tea which comes here of all kinds, mostly of good quality, but certainly of superior quality to that class of China tea of which I speak. It is mixed with the better teas of India and Ceylon, and thus reduces the price of tea at the expense of the stomachs of the poor in this country. The tax on this low class tea runs up to cent per cent of the value, which further emphasises the inadvisability of taxing up to the hilt an article which is so absolutely necessary to the poor of the country. I call the Prime Minister as a witness in favour of this Motion. Speaking at Cinderford in 1903 he said:—I do not hesitate to say that it is the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to set to work at once to effect, as I believe he might easily effect, such reductions in the expenditure of the country as would enable him to withdraw with the shortest possible delay one-third of the Tea Duty, which was always intended to be a temporary burden.That was what the Prime Minister, not then Prime Minister, thought it was a good thing for a Unionist Chancellor of the Exchequer to do. It would be interesting to know what would be the right hon. Gentleman's comment in office on his own words out of office. I come to his own action in 1552 office, to which I raise no objection. The term of office of the right hon. Gentleman as Chancellor of the Exchequer compares so favourably with that of his successor in this and all other respects that I am exceedingly unwilling to say a critical word of anything done by him. I wish that he had remained at the Exchequer. In 1906, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he said:Tea has become to the mass of our people a prime necessity of life, but it is still by far the highest in proportion to its value of all the taxes levied on articles of food.It is quite needless therefore for me to argue that tea is an article of food. The Prime Minister has admitted it. It would be superfluous for me to point out that the tax on this article of food is an excessive proportion of its value. We have a speech from the Prime Minister admitting that and urging on the Chancellor of the Exchequer the necessity of a reduction. But he never urged it upon his own Chancellor of the Exchequer. He unfortunately relinquished that office and passed it on to the present holder, after taking off only a penny, when, judging by his own words and by all the necessities of the case, the least remission made should have been twopence.
I think that those who claim with such insistence to be the friends of the people in the most special sense, with a capital "P" and a very large "F"—should remember that the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this side courageously took off 2d. immediately after war time because he sympathises with the sufferings of the people, and also because he knew, as the Prime Minister knows very well, that a penny really only disturbs the distributer, puzzles the producer, and does not benefit the consumer. Therefore I say that 2d. should be taken off instead of the usual penny; I maintain that is the action which should be taken. The Tariff Reform, which I profess, and which I believe is professed on these benches, distinctly implies and involves the reduction of the Tea Duty. That is a fact which should be well brought home to the electorate of this country, which is perpetually being deluded by crazy and dishonest schemes for further spoliation of particular interests which do not find favour in certain quarters. I say it would be only fair to the electors that they should be distinctly informed that the reduction of the Tea Duty is an integral portion of that Tariff Reform which, I understand, is professed on these benches, and which I at any rate profess. It would 1553 be quite impossible to make any change in our financial provisions at the present moment which would be more beneficial to the poor of this country than that which I now suggest. The Chancellor of the Exchequer on occasion is fond of quoting a text in the Bible about poor people:—Blessed is he that considereth the poor.We must all feel that, but I cannot help recollecting, whenever I see that text, another text about the man who:—Lieth in wait secretly to catch the poor; and he does catch the poor when he draweth them into his net.I want to see the 5d. reduced by 2d., and I should be exceedingly glad to hear any hopeful words from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. In the present financial position of the Government, with their very large surplus, I submit that, if they do not devote it to increasing the Navy in this time of crisis, instead of keeping it in their hands, some of it might have gone into the pockets of the people. I believe that the true theory of Government is to interfere with the people as little as possible, and to leave as much of their money in their pockets as possible. But that is a theory exactly contrary to the principle which animates the present financiers who are in charge of the finances of this country. I believe, however, that it is the one and only true principle on which to act, and they have an opportunity now of putting it into practice. We should remember how much smaller are the duties which are levied in other countries, and also that other countries are levying duties upon the produce of foreign counties, whereas we are levying these duties upon our own produce. That is a wrong principle, whether the Government be a Free Trade, a protection, or a fair trade Government, or whatever be the colour of its financial views in this respect. I am myself susceptible of criticism, and it might be said that I am a man interested from the producers' point of view. I am well aware of that fact, and it is for that reason I have taken very great pains to explain myself in urging that at this moment such a reduction as I advocate is required.
I urge it solely on behalf of the consumer. I represent a great many poor people in my Constituency, and I know of nothing that would be more grateful to them than this reduction of the Tea Duty. How often does it happen that the Government is in a position in which it is rolling in money, and has to pay more debt than it wished to pay, or intended to pay —certainly more than it intended to pay— 1554 simply because it does not know to what purpose to devote its immense surplus. I urge the Government as strongly as I possibly can to devote some of the money—I do not care for the cant about a free breakfast table—to reducing the duty on tea, which is the great breakfast, and often the dinner beverage of the majority of the poor of this country. I do not go into any cottage at any time of the day without seeing that the one drink is tea. People drink it; they make it into a stew, they boil it until it becomes extremely noxious, and they do this because tea is so expensive that they cannot afford to drink an infusion of it which is beneficial and not harmful. Hon. Members talk about the poor, yet here we have tea which is being misused until it becomes as noxious as opium or whisky. Poor people are driven to boil it and stew it until the black tannin becomes a source of mischief, and all this because they have to pay a very high price for their tea owing to the duty which is imposed. Why do the Government not take up this matter and bring some comfort to the homes of the poor, instead of talking perpetually about what is to be done? Here is a chance of doing some little concrete good upon the spot. I am very well aware that this subject comes annually before the Committee, and I am very unwilling, though I have other arguments, to reproduce them at greater length. It is a subject in which I am very much interested, but out of consideration for the feelings of the Committee I do not dwell upon it further than to submit the Amendment, for reduction of the duty, which I have on the Paper.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I feel myself in rather an unfortunate position, because with a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman opposite has just said I am in entire agreement. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to support the proposal of the hon. Member, but I think we are bound to consider what would be its effect in regard to the Budget Bill as a whole. The hon. Gentleman told us of the necessity for economy. It has struck me, and I have no doubt others on this side of the House, that while hon. Gentlemen opposite are very enthusiastic economists, there is one subject in their advocacy of economy which they always exclude from their contemplations, and that is economy with regard to the question of armaments. I am afraid that we cannot have true economy unless we are prepared to apply economy all round. If you insist as to the necessity of these armaments, then they have got 1555 to be financed somehow. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are always so enthusiastic about that expenditure, qualify their enthusiasm by moving this Motion. It reminds me of the story of the time when Sir Robert Peel brought in his Free Trade measure and when he received a letter from a correspondent in Scotland, who, while congratulating him on that great measure, pointed out that there was one industry requiring Protection, i.e., that of curing fresh herring. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must face this question in its entirety, and if they wish to deal with extravagance they must do it all round. In view of the prospective liabilities of which we have heard for the past few days we cannot, however much we might wish, do away with this tax, although I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman has said, and although I am sure many Members on the Labour and Liberal Benches sincerely desire to relieve the poorest in the land of this burden. I do not say that we claim to have a monopoly of sympathy with the poor, but the hon. Gentleman must, to be consistent, look at this question in its financial aspect as well as in its sentimental aspect. It seems to me that if we are to have this expenditure that it is right that all sections of the community should be willing to pay their proportion of the charge and face it in their taxation. That is the only thing that will ever teach the people that if they insist and support either Government in this expenditure they must be prepared to pay their share of it. Some of us believe that you could get adequate defence and more moderate expenditure by means of a financial reserve, which I think would give you the same security.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I bow to your ruling. My point is if you wish to bring about a reduction in the Tea Duty you must also have regard to its effect on your finance. We on this side are unable to support the very admirable proposal of the hon. Gentleman. I wish we could support it, but we cannot do so, because we feel that in view of the present financial position of the country the continuance of the duty, in view of the increasing liability adumbrated to us, is absolutely necessary. At the same time I would like to see a reduction of the tax, and I, for one, believe 1556 if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had come forward with the reduction, in view of the fact of having a surplus of £6,500,000, he might have got an increased income. It does not necessarily follow that when you reduce the duty you reduce the revenue, because the reduction in price often stimulates consumption. People, instead of using tea over and over again because it is at a high price, would use more of it if the price was reduced and would thus increase the revenue from it. If you could so adjust your tax as to lead to improved consumption you would not suffer in revenue and you would at the same time benefit the health of the people.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
I confess I have a certain amount of sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman who will reply for the Government in support of this tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in proposing and imposing this tax imposes a tax which is thoroughly hated and disliked all over England, and necessarily so. I suppose there are about five million breakfast tables, and therefore to say that this is a tax on a luxury is ridiculous. It is a burden and tax on the average citizen of the country and a very unfair burden. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken challenged us when we criticised this tax to tell the House where we are to get an equivalent revenue. Curiously enough the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means threw out the same challenge and asked us where could they get the revenue which they derived from this tax. In supporting this Amendment I suggest to tax luxuries and not necessities. It has been said of us that we want to tax the poor man's loaf and not to tax luxuries. Can the right hon. Gentlemen opposite say that tea is a luxury? Tea is a necessity. Can they honestly say that they have looked around the whole scope of taxation and that there is not a single luxury which they could tax and by which they could remove the tax on tea? The term "luxury" is of wide definition. Are there no amusement they could tax and thus take off this hateful tax on tea? After all that is not a new or novel idea. Some of us in this House have been lately perhaps over to France and to the theatres in Paris. We pay our money to go into those theatres, but we pay something else. We pay 10 per cent, of a tax, which was referred to by the Postmaster-General when he was defending his 1557 scheme of Irish finance. Not long ago there was a certain amount of discussion about tickets of admission to a certain enclosure in a racecourse. These tickets of admission, or badges, cost on the average £3 each—£4 for gentlemen, £2 for ladies; and, as 6,000 are issued, that means £18,000. Does anyone mean to tell me that if we charged ladies and gentlemen 10 per cent, on those tickets they would not gladly pay it? Of course they would. There would get at once £18,000, money at present actually thrown away. Extend that principle to all the racecourses in the United Kingdom. If you charged 10 per cent. on the admissions to the grand stands you would raise an enormous amount of revenue. The tax would, of course, be graduated downwards. You would not charge 10 per cent. on the 2s. 6d. ring. But all sections ought to pay for the upkeep of the defence of the country; therefore, if you charged 10 per cent. on a £2 admission to the grand stand, you might charge the man in the shilling ring a penny. Then suppose you charged 10 per cent. on stalls at the theatre, letting the gallery and pit go free. That would do no harm whatever. Another tax which would bring in an enormous revenue is a tax on advertisements or posters. In France, if anybody wants to put up an advertisement for chocolate, boots, or anything else, he must affix a 25 or 30 centimes stamp. If a candidate at an election in France wishes to put up a poster, he has to pay a small tax for it. Take the poster issued by one of the papers in England at the last General Election, entitled "What! tax my land? If every one of those had had to pay 2½d.—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I did not wish to stop the hon. Member in a general reference to luxuries; but he is now going into details which, though interesting, are not in order on this Amendment.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
I am glad to hear that my remarks were interesting; that, at any rate, is a compliment. I would simply point out, in reply to the challenge that we criticise the Tea Tax, but do not show how the revenue can otherwise be raised, that we are perfectly ready to, and, on another occasion, will do so. It is easy to show how the revenue can be raised in a way to hurt nobody, and in a way by which a tax which is oppressive and does harm can be remitted and great good done to the poor of the land.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. Hobhouse)
I am sure the hon. Member opposite has put forward his suggestion for the taxation of tickets for race courses and theatres and of advertisements in all good faith as a new and original idea suggested to him by the example of other countries. But I do not suppose that there is any Chancellor of the Exchequer who, as the month of April has come round, has not received by the thousand letters making exactly the same proposals, the worth of which, however, examination by the Treasury and by successive Chancellors of the Exchequer has entirely failed to prove. The slightest examination will show that the supposed sources of revenue indicated by the hon. Member would not produce any substantial result at all. It was a very happy thing for this, country when, a good many years ago, the tax upon advertisements was deliberately removed, on the ground that it was a hindrance to commerce. I am sure that the present House of Commons would not desire to impose any unnecessary hindrance upon commerce by resorting to so false a financial proceeding.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
In my own experience I have constantly heard Frenchmen decrying and deploring the very system of taxation suggested by the hon. Member. The Mover of the Amendment explained at considerable length the motives which influenced him in the course he was taking. I am not qualified to judge of those motives, and I have no curiosity on the point. I merely take the proposal as it stands on the Paper. If the tax on tea was placed at 3d. instead of 5d. there would be a loss to the Exchequer of something like £2,500,000. That is a very serious loss for the Exchequer to contemplate in a year when, whether we like it or not, we have a heavy and increasing expenditure to meet. The hon. Member did not indicate the source from which the deficiency might be made good, and I do not know that it was his business to do so. But he claims, and I do not question his claim, to be a serious Member of the House. That being so, one would have thought that, without indicating the precise tax which might be increased in order to make good the deficiency, he would at any rate have given some indication as to how the required revenue might be obtained.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
That is not taxation. The chief sources which occur to me as being open to make good any deficiency caused by the reduction in the Tea Duty are Income Tax, Death Duties, and the substitution of some other tax upon food. I do not know whether the hon. Member desires to see the Income Tax raised higher than 1s. 2d.
§ Mr. HEWINS
Is the right hon. Gentleman entitled to discuss these alternatives, when we on our side are not permitted to give our alternatives?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
As far as I understood, the Deputy-Chairman ruled that we were not to go into detail. I hope I am not going into detail.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
My ruling was that a general reference to other alternatives was permissible, but to go into details of alternative taxation is a matter for the Second Reading stage, and not for the Committee stage on this specific tax. I admit that I allowed the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Newman) to go a little further.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Is it not the custom, when the Minister in charge himself raises the question of alternative taxation and refers in considerable detail to many specific proposals, that Members on the Opposition side should be allowed to reply in the same strain?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I was listening to the right hon. Gentleman rather closely, but I did not understand him to go very far into detail.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Of course, I will follow the ruling laid down, but I would only point out that an extraordinary deficit would arise if the proposal were adopted, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have to make good a loss of two and a half millions.
§ Sir J. D. REES
How would that be so, seeing that the Government's own account shows an increase of six millions in the year? I dispute it.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I desire to maintain possession of the House. The suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Coventry is that the effect of taking off some of the taxation which now exists upon tea would be to increase the consumption.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I think that is very possible. The satisfactory part of the consumption of tea is that in spite of the level of taxation there is a very satisfactory increase of tea consumption in this country. It is true, as has been pointed out in the House, that a good deal of that increased consumption is of tea not grown in India or Ceylon, but even in the case of Indian and Ceylon tea there has been a rise in the consumption which amounts, I think, within the last two years to something over 3,000,000 lbs. So that, relatively high as the duty may be—and I would remind hon. Members that it is not so high as it was left by the late Government—there has been a considerable increase in consumption of Indian and Ceylon tea, and a much greater increased consumption of China and Java tea, and of tea from the Colonies, though this latter is practically a negligible quantity. The people of this country buy increasing quantities of tea every year. Tea is no longer a luxury—certainly to the poorer households it is a real necessity. I think, therefore, we may congratulate ourselves on that fact. It is impossible to make good the deficit of revenue created if the proposals suggested were adopted. The ruling from the Chair forbids me to make any reference to any taxation of tea that might be suggested to meet such a deficiency, but it must be remembered that we have within the last ten years reduced the taxation on tea, and if the exigencies of the financial situation permitted we would only be too delighted to repeat our former process.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
On a similar proposal not very long ago the Government majority fell to twenty-two. We on this side of the House are in favour of increasing our trade with our Dominions as much as possible, and if we were to reduce the Tea Duty by 2d. in the lb. we should have to at once increase our trade with India, and at any rate, that would enable India to do a better trade with us in manufactured goods. The right hon. Gentleman doubts that statement. He said last year, in discussing a somewhat similar proposal, that as India took four-fifths of her imports from another country he did not see that we should increase our exports to India by increasing our trade in this way. But the right hon. Gentleman's statement last year, that India took four-fifths of her imports from another country was quite inaccurate. As a matter of fact in the year to which he alluded, 1910, India's total imports, if you take the 1561 amount of specie at 4,500,000, was 1,000,000,000 rupees. In that same year, according to the Board of Trade Returns, which I must say I prefer to the right hon. Gentleman's statement, the amount of goods which India imported from the rest of the world, was 500,000,000 rupees. In other words, instead of four-fifths of her imports coming from the Mother-country it is only two-thirds, so that there is a fallacy in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I will read the House the right hon. Gentleman's statement, because I think it is very important. He said:—India at present takes about four-fifths of her imported goods from us; on the other hand, we are by no means her best customer.There is another very important matter, and that is that the Indian statistics at that time, and even now, do not state the country of origin, but only the country of the shipment of the goods. The Indian Government is at present reorganising her statistical department in order to be able to give the information as to the country of origin. The President of the Board of Trade, in answer to a question of mine a couple of months ago, stated that we in this country would alter our Board of Trade Returns and try to give the country of origin instead of the country of shipment. I venture to say that if the country of origin instead of the country of shipment is put down in these Returns we should find that the exports of foreign countries to India are very much greater than put down hitherto. There is another point in connection with that, and that is that in 1906–7 our total share of the imports of India was 66.6 per cent. In 1910–11 our proportion of the imports had sunk to 61.1 per cent., that is, even less than two-thirds, and those are figures given in a lecture in March at the London School of Economics. I think, therefore, that if we could increase our trade with India we could, no doubt, get a preference on certain things in the Indian Tariff. Even without going into protection we should increase our trade, therefore this reduction of the Tea Duty would be a very great advantage. The importance of Imperial unity is admitted by everybody, and I believe that hon. Members opposite are having their eyes opened to the absolute necessity of drawing closer the bonds which unite the Empire.
I hope that no partisan prejudice against Tariff Reform or Imperial preference will prevent them studying this subject, and seeing if they cannot do something by this 1562 means to increase our ties with the Empire at large. The late Secretary to the Treasury, who has just spoken, said that we had put forward no alternative by which we can raise revenue which might be lost by adopting the Amendment of my hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman said that the amount of revenue lost will be £2,500,000. Under the ruling which has been given from the Chair by Mr. Maclean we were told we could not go into great detail in this matter, but I think I would be in order in mentioning very briefly a method by which we could get this revenue and at the same time reduce the burden upon the poorer classes of the community. If we take the figures of last year, we find that 11,000 motor cars were imported into this country from foreign countries, and if we were to take the value of these at £5,000,000, and if we were to put an equivalent duty on to that put on by the United States—that is, 45 per cent. —we at once get the revenue which we would lose by taking off the Tea Duty. It cannot be contended that motor cars are a necessity of the poorer classes of the community; they are certainly a luxury, and I myself would far rather see a thumping duty upon motor cars than that an absolute necessity of the poor, such as tea, should be taxed. The right hon. Gentleman also said that, in spite of the heavy duty upon tea, there had been an increase of 3,000,000 lbs. of consumption. He did not mention that the total consumption in this country of Indian and Ceylon tea is something like 300,000,000 lbs., and therefore an increase of 3,000,000 lbs. is only an increase of 1 per cent. If you consider that the growth of the population is going on at the rate of 400,000 a year, it is quite obvious that the growth in the consumption of tea is not keeping pace with the growth of population. I therefore have the greatest pleasure in supporting the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. BARNES
We have had two forma of Tariff Reform from the opposite side this afternoon, and by way of preface to my remarks I may say I am absolutely opposed to Tariff Reform in any shape. It may appear very plausible to put a tax on motor cars, but I am against Tariff Reform in the shape of a tax upon commodities produced in this country, which employ large numbers of men and women under fairly good circumstances, and therefore I am against the motor-car tax.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I have not heard what took place before, but I must say my view is that it would not be in order to go into questions of that kind and questions of patting duties on motor cars.
§ Mr. BARNES
I had really anticipated your ruling. I had no desire of entering into the matter in detail, but I thought I should be justified in making a reference to what was said by the hon. Member who has just sat down. That is all I desire to do. I was going on to say that the reduction of the duty on tea and, indeed, the reduction of the duty upon goods of everyday consumption by the people of the country, if that is Tariff Reform, then I am a Tariff Reformer; but let me suggest that the Opposition have no monopoly of that sort of Tariff Reform. As a matter of fact, the Government and the Liberal party have been going about the country for generations saying that they are also Tariff Reformers in that respect. An hon. Friend has reminded me of what has occurred at Crewe; if it has not figured there it has figured in a hundred other elections. The Liberal party have always been saying they are in favour of the abolition of indirect taxation and in favour of the abolition of taxation upon the breakfast table commodities. I am also in favour of the abolition of these taxes. In conjunction with my hon. Friends on these benches I have been, generally speaking, acquiescent in these taxes for the last few years, because we have been led to believe that other issues were at stake, such as the reform of the House of Lords, and so on, and therefore we have not voted, speaking generally, in favour of the reduction of these taxes. On this occasion, speaking for myself, I am going to vote in this Division strictly upon the merits, and I am going to vote in favour of the reduction of the Tea Duty by 2d.
I listened to the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Hobhouse) with the utmost attention, and in the hope that I should hear some argument in answer to the hon. Gentleman opposite. The argument of the hon. Gentleman opposite was one with which we are all familiar. We have had it put forward that these taxes are a burden upon our poor people, and I listened to the argument of the Chancellor of the Duchy with the hope of hearing some reason given by which I could 1564 support the Government if it were possible to do so, but there was not a shred of argument in favour of this tax. The right hon. Gentleman told us it was impossible to make up this reduction of £2,500,000 which would be entailed by the adoption of this Amendment. To my mind it would only amount to £2,000,000, and as there would be increased trade consequent upon the reduction of the tax, the amount would be further diminished, but it is not my business to make up the £2,000,000. We are told that the Government could not make up these £2,000,000 now, but they ought to have foreseen this and have made provision for it. For my part, I say that having regard to the increased wealth of the country and the capacity of the country, I think it is the duty of the Government to relieve people from this indirect taxation upon commodities of everyday consumption and to make it up out of the increased wealth of the country. I have voted with the Government during the past six years that the tax has remained on. I have come to the conclusion not to do so any longer and I will therefore support the Amendment for the reduction.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having at last arrived at an independent state. The hon. Gentleman has told us that for the last six years he has held, in the language of the Radical party, the idea of "a free breakfast table," but although holding this view in the last six years he has consistently voted against it. Now at the last moment he has come to the conclusion that he will exercise his vote upon the merits of the question. That is a striking commentary on the manner in which hon. Gentlemen opposite have hitherto exercised that privilege which the free-minded electors of this country have conferred upon them. I am also going to vote upon the merits of this question, and I am going to support the Government. For many years I sat on the opposite side of the House, and when hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen sitting here moved a reduction of the Tea Duty I always voted against them and in favour of my own Government. Ever since I have been on this side of the House, and on every occasion, I have supported the Government when this Resolution has been moved, because I cannot conceive how any of us who sat on the opposite side and said there should be a duty on tea can consistently turn round now and vote against it. Therefore I 1565 intend to support the Government. I do not know whether the independence of the hon. Member for Blackfriars has been aroused because he knows that this Division will result in favour of the Government. I am always a little suspicious when hon. Members below the Gangway on the opposite side announce that they are going to take an independent attitude, and I suspect that they have beforehand chatted with the Whips as to what the result of taking that attitude will be.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is possible to ask whether the Government are likely to be in a minority or not. That is not an arrangement but it is an inquiry, and it is quite possible that the hon. Member has made that inquiry. In this matter I have not acted inconsistently for the last twenty years, but I have acted consistently, and I shall endeavour to do so in the future. May I point out to my hon. Friend that you could not impose a duty of 45 per cent. Conceive what foreign countries would say about it. It is for that reason I disagree with my hon. Friend. I hope my hon. Friends on this side of the House will consider what they are going to do in supporting this Amendment. We are told, and I believe with considerable truth, that coming events cast their shadows before. There has been a shadow in this House and, if that old proverb is true, possibly something in the near future may arise. I would ask my hon. Friends to consider, in view of the enormous expenditure we are committed to at the present moment, whether it would still be possible to further reduce indirect taxation. I do not believe it would. I have not the figures, but I believe indirect taxation has been reduced by 45 per cent, or 55 per cent.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The result of this proposal would be that the poor classes would pay no taxation at all, and while they would have the power of returning hon. Gentlemen like the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division, they would not be called upon to pay the piper owing to the foolish action of the hon. Member for Blackfriars. I hope my hon. Friends will consider a little more carefully what they are doing before they divide the Committee on this Motion.
§ Mr. AMERY
I know that my hon. Friend always votes simply on the merits of a question, but this is not a question of the reduction of indirect taxation. My hon. Friend suggested an alternative form of indirect taxation, and one which would have been an advantage even from the revenue point of view on account of the increase in consumption of tea. I do not want to argue that point. The answer we give to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is that there are a large variety of ways by means of which these £2,000,000 could easily be raised. There are various forms of indirect taxation which would not be so unfair in their incidence upon the poorest class of the population as the Tea Duty. This is a very high, and inordinately high, duty upon a necessity of the poorest of the people. My hon. Friend who moved this Amendment described it as a duty of 55 per cent., but that is only the average incidence of the duty upon all the tea consumed in this country. On the tea of the poorest classes it is a duty of nearly 100 per cent, on a necessary of life. Tea is just as much a necessary of life as wheaten bread. You may say that after all the people need not eat wheaten bread, but rice or maize, but that is not the question. The poorest people in the country consume very largely two articles, namely, bread and tea. I wish it were not so, but that unfortunately is the fact, and to make a diet of bread tolerable, you want some stimulant like tea. When I examine the Budget of the poorest of the people, I find that the weekly consumption of tea involves a tax upon them very much higher than a 2s. duty on wheat would impose upon bread.
The Secretary to the Admiralty gave the other day the Budget of a worker in the dockyard, and in that family the duty paid on tea alone would have been enough to put a ld. on every loaf they consumed. Whatever our view on the question of Protection, we must admit that this particular duty bears enormously hard upon the poor. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington talks about this being an inopportune moment for raising this question, but surely there is no more opportune moment than a time when the cost of living admittedly has enormously increased and when there is a great deal of discontent owing to that very fact! Besides all this, in the present year we have had a very considerable surplus. Further, you have just put a tax upon every working man's household expenses through the Insurance 1567 Act. On the merits of the case, I think there is a strong case for reducing this particular duty, and I am glad we have had from the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division a frank recognition, which I wish we had had from other hon. Members, that it is an essential part of the policy which Tariff Reformers advocate to remit certain excessively high duties which are at present imposed upon the necessities of life of the poorest people in the country. That has been our whole contention from the first, and it would have been a little fairer if some of our opponents, instead of raising a tremendous outcry about merely a contingent possibility of an increase in the cost of certain articles of food, had admitted the certainty and the extraordinary heaviness of the tax that is at present imposed upon food. This tax on tea is of such a character that the whole of it, and not only the tax itself, but the interest on it which the importer has to pay, does fall necessarily and certainly upon the consumer. At any rate, even by the admission of many hon. Members opposite, there is a chance—you may consider it a small chance; we consider it a certainty—that in the case of the alternative duties we suggest the burden will not fall upon the consumer; or, if it does, it will only fall partly upon him, and will fall proportionately, partfalling upon the importer.
There is a further reason. If we reduce this duty, we shall substitute other duties which will increase production, and, if you increase production, you automatically increase revenue. It is generally reckoned that from 12½ per cent, to 14 per cent, of the cost of production goes to the revenue. For every pound's worth of any article, whether an agricultural product or a motor car, that is produced in this country, the revenue, through the Tea Duty, the Tobacco Duty, the Spirit Duty, and the Income Tax, whatever it may be, is from 2s. 6d. to 3s. richer. Our whole proposal is to lighten those duties which bear most directly and most heavily upon the poor consumer in order to shift them upon things that are to some extent luxuries, and at any rate make them fall upon the richer classes of the community. Consequently, you would get rid of duties which do nothing to stimulate production and which certainly fall upon the consumer, and you would impose instead duties which are not likely to fall upon the consumer at any rate as a whole, and 1568 which by increasing production would give an increase of revenue without the need of imposing further duties.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I only want to add one word to what my hon. Friend below me has said in reference in particular to that portion of his speech where he contrasted the weight of this tax with the weight of possible other alternative methods of taxation. It is somewhat difficult to be met by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster telling us quite courteously he has no money. He asks us what is our alternative? We are in a great difficulty because, under the Rules of Order, we cannot suggest an alternative. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well what it is, and the Committee knows perfectly well what it is. All I can say is if the right hon. Gentleman does not by this time know what our proposals are, he has shown himself very unwilling to learn. Let me take one of them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are very much in the habit of accusing us of being food taxers. I want to put it to them, because I am sure they are anxious to look at this question fairly. Have they ever thought how this, as a food tax, compares with the food tax which any Tariff Reformer, even in his wildest moments, ever dreamt of imposing. I will make the widest possible assumption. Let us take for comparison a suggested tax of 2s. a quarter on foreign corn, and I will throw in gratuitously the assumption that the tax raises the price of every quarter of corn imported into this country.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I had to call the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow to order on this question, and I hope the hon. Member will not pursue the matter.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I will not pursue it; I will only state very shortly the conclusion. I will assume the worst possible case, and even assume the price is raised by the full amount of the duty. The consumption of corn per head of the population is six bushels, and, even if the price is raised by the full amount of the duty, that is 1s. 6d. a year. Now see what this duty on tea is? The consumption of tea in the country is 6.53 lbs. per head. Multiply that by the duty on tea, and we get a duty not of 1s. 6d. per head, but something like 2s. 8½d. per head. Now do hon. Gentlemen opposite see why I say the present system of taxation means food taxes more heavy than ever entered the head of 1569 the wildest Tariff Reformer in his most wild moments. I am one of those who has all along voted consistently for the reduction of this tax. I think in principle it is an unfortunate tax. It is very unfortunate that a tax of this character should be a tax by weight and not an ad valorem tax. If even at its present figure it were an ad valorem tax the burden would fall much more lightly upon the poor. At present actually the cheaper the kind of tea consumed the heavier is the amount of the duty. Therefore, I think it is unfortunate from that point of view that it is a duty by weight and not a duty ad valorem. I only rose to point the moral of what my hon. Friend has said. I am sorry the Rules of Order do not allow us to discuss, as we are perfectly ready to do, our alternative policy, which perhaps we shall have an opportunity of settling earlier than some hon. Members think, and of thus relieving the poorer population of this country from a crushing weight of taxation which presses upon them and placing it on the shoulders of those who ought to bear it.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I rise to support the reduction for altogether different reasons from those mentioned by the hon. Member who has just sat down. I support the reduction because I am an entire Free Trader. I believe in taking all duties off all commodities of general consumption. I also do so because I am perfectly certain, if the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Hemmerde) were here, he could tell us a much better method of getting the money than hon. Gentlemen opposite. As far as I understand their policy—[An HON. MEMBER: "What is it?"] I believe I have no right to say, and, after the correspondence I have read in the newspapers and letters to candidates, I am afraid nobody can say. But I understand that the policy of hon. Members opposite is to take the tax off one kind of commodity and put it on another. That is just the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee. The unhappy people who use bread are to pay 1s. 6d. I want that they should pay nothing at all. There are plenty of very rich people in this country who can make up this money. The strongest reason I have for supporting the reduction, and on this I would lay particular emphasis, is because the very poor pay relatively so much more than any of the rest of us. It is one of the most iniquitous taxes on the poor, because when a person buys tea at 8d., 5d. goes straight away into the Exchequer. Is there anyone who pays 1570 Income Tax relatively to his income in anything like that proportion in the shape of Imperial taxation?
It seems to me, when the supporters of the Government are going about the country at this moment advocating a free breakfast table, and putting before the constituencies propositions for securing a free breakfast table, and when they are being supported by letters from the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, it seems rather curious we should be debating in the House of Commons with this Government in power whether or not these things should be done. Common people do not understand it. I do not understand it. I am only an ordinary person, and when I read these letters and when I hear speeches such as I heard the other night I do not understand why a Government with an enthusiastic majority behind it does not bring into the House of Commons a proposal which would free the breakfast table of duties and impose the burden on land or big incomes. It is quite possible to raise this money in other ways, and I suggest that, in common honesty, the Government ought to withdraw at least a portion of their Budget and reintroduce it with some of those tremendous reforms that candidates in the country are either hoodwinking the people with or really desire to carry. If they mean what they say, here is an excellent opportunity for the Government to carry out a policy which at least some of them are talking about for the purpose of getting votes at Crewe and other places. I therefore propose to vote, with a great deal of enthusiasm, for this reduction of 2d., although I would very much prefer to see the tax wiped out altogether.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I very seldom agree with the hon. Member who last spoke, and my agreement with him on this occasion is only partial. I agree with him heartily thus far, that it is very desirable that the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer should square their Parliamentary conduct with their platform and epistolary utterances. The hon. Member cannot understand why the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of his extra Parliamentary attitude and the attitude of his colleagues, does not at once remove this duty on tea. I believe I understand why he does not, because he himself explained it in a short and very interesting speech no later than last December. What I fail to understand is why his statesmanlike utterances given expression 1571 to in this House do not govern his utterances elsewhere, or affect the attitude of candidates and Members of his party when they go electioneering. What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say about this? He said he was one of those who held that in a country like ours everybody ought to contribute something towards the national expenditure. I entirely agree with him. It is a sound doctrine. It is a doctrine which honest politicians must maintain above all things, when there is an increasing demand to use public money to help individuals or classes in the community. That is a policy which, in one form or another, is adopted by all parties in this House, but it is only tolerable if a portion of the expenditure is found by all classes in the community. It would be shameful and demoralising to the nation to teach any particular class that it might be exempt from taxation and yet free to put its hands into the public purse. If you are content to regard them as partners who are to contribute to the cost of a policy of social reform which, in various phases, we are all in favour of, although we are not agreed as to the form it should take, that is possibly a right policy. But it is only possible if it is carried out in partnership, and it is not a right policy if it is to be done at the expense of one class exclusively for the benefit of another class.
I agree with what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in the speech I have quoted. I am speaking from memory. If he thinks that I exceed in any way in my comments what he said in his original speech he will correct me, but I am pretty confident that I am within the mark. If it be granted that every class of the community is to pay, how are they to do so? They are either to contribute indirectly or to pay some direct tax. If it be by means of a direct tax it must be an Income Tax. I know there are theorists in finance who advocate with great force and power that the proper remedy would be to extend the Income Tax downwards. Is that practicable? Is it practicable from the point of view of the cost of collection? Are the results of our attempts to levy direct Income Tax under another name for different purposes from the masses of our people such as to encourage us to try to exact the whole of the contribution of the working classes in the form of direct deductions from their wages? I venture to say that the people concerned would themselves not approve of such a proposal, and that it would be ruin- 1572 ously expensive in collection. However advisable it may be in theory, in practice such a system would stand condemned by the cost of collection. If you are not to do that, if you are not ready to impose any other indirect tax, which is the attitude of the Government at present, how can they abolish or reduce the Tea Duty? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said frankly, last year, he must ask for contributions from all classes to national defence, and to the cost of carrying on the Government and the great social reform— great social measures—which are in operation. But he was not prepared, and he did not think it advisable to take any contributions in the shape of Income Tax from the working classes below the present Income Tax limit. He must, therefore, take it from such a duty as the Tea Duty. That is the answer to the hon. Member who last spoke as to why the Government do not accept this Motion for a reduction of the Tea Duty. But why the Chancellor of the Exchequer, holding that view, and speaking as the financial representative of the whole Government—I do not attempt to distinguish between his view on this matter and that of any of his colleagues, or to suggest any difference—why, while expressing that view for the whole Government they allow these totally contradictory statements to be made wherever there is a by-election I cannot understand, and I cannot help thinking that that is a matter on which the House should draw its own inferences.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of the very interesting speech he has delivered, appealed to hon. Members on this side of the Committee to square their platform with their Parliamentary utterances. The right hon. Gentleman has legitimately very considerable influence in the House and knows that the difficulty must be greater on his own side than on ours. If he had made that appeal first of all to his own Friends I think he would have found it very difficult.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am afraid there is. I do not rise for the purpose of making recriminations, but to make a serious contribution to the Debate. I have never concealed my views on the subject of indirect taxation. I cannot say that I am in agreement with a good many Friends of mine on this side of the Com- 1573 mittee. I hold very strong views with regard to that, but substantially I am in agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman said. He has pointed out that very considerable expenditure is being incurred by the Government of this country, partly for the protection of our shores, and partly for the purposes of social reform, which directly benefits the working classes of the country. Roughly, out of the £26,000,000 which was raised in the course of last year, about £13,000,000 goes to defence, and I think 15 per cent, goes directly to the pockets of the classes upon whom undoubtedly taxes bear heavily. I do not want to raise a large discussion on the question of direct and indirect taxation. The Debate raises a very large issue, as this Amendment is receiving the support of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side. They very naturally convert it into a Tariff Reform Debate, in so far as the ruling of the Chair permits. It is perfectly clear that they are supporting the Amendment from that point of view. They are proposing to deprive the Government of a revenue of something between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. They must know that if this Amendment were carried today it would be the duty of the Government to find that £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 in some other quarter. They must also know that it would be quite impossible for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Committee to find the money in the direction they indicate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] For perfectly obvious reasons. We on this side of the Committee are Free Traders, but hon. Gentlemen opposite are Tariff Reformers. Undoubtedly they could take that line, but we could not possibly do so. Therefore, we should have to find this money in directions and by methods which would be in accordance with the general principles of finance held by Members of the Government, and by those who support them. Is that really what the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment and his Friends really want. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) is perfectly frank. He says: "I would put this upon the shoulders of the rich." That could be done.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
But is that the intention of those who support this Amendment? It is a very serious responsibility that they are undertaking. I do not withdraw in the slightest degree from the 1574 statement which I made in December last. I think that when expenditure is incurred for great national purposes, whether for social reform or defence, it is not merely the duty but the privilege of every Member of the community to contribute something towards it. It is a very serious thing to encourage the idea that all the burdens should be taken from the shoulders of one class of the community and placed upon the shoulders of the other. I have never denied that, but I have said, and I still say, that there are classes of the community who are not bearing their fair share. But I have never, whether in opposition or upon this side of the House, countenanced the idea that any section of the community should escape.
§ Mr. SANDYS
On a point of Order, Mr. Whitley. You called my hon. Friend to order for putting forward his alternative scheme. Is the right hon. Gentleman in order in putting forward his alternative scheme.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I carefully refrained from indicating any alternative scheme. I simply said that there are alternatives within the four corners of Free Trade finance. I realise that it would be quite out of order to indicate those alternatives. What I do say is this, and I am emphasising what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), that the proposition that any section of the community should escape from responsibility altogether, while having their share of power, is a very serious proposition for anybody to encourage. I will say this— and I have said it before—that I should be very glad to find some other and better method than this whereby the working classes, the least favoured portion of the community so far as possessions are concerned, should have the contribution levied upon them. I wonder whether hon. Gentlemen who are supporting this Amendment have thought out what better method there is. Theoretically, there are many better methods. Theoretically, an Income Tax like that levied in Prussia and Saxony is better. I forget what the income limit is in Saxony. I think it is about £40 a year. Theoretically that is a very much better method, but from the point of view of anyone who has the 1575 responsibility of collecting taxes, it is an extraordinarily difficult method. All those who have had to get something which is in the nature of an equivalent to the Income Tax from the working classes, insurance companies, and the like, have to take it in halfpennies and pennies a week. They find it impossible to collect a substantial sum. Let hon. Members bear in mind what has been done in regard to rating. People do not pay directly, but through the landlords. The landlord pays the tax, and then collects it in weekly subscriptions.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I was not aware of that. As a matter of fact, they had found from experience that it is impossible to collect the rate in this country except through the landlord, allowing him 20 per cent, or 30 per cent, for collection. I think that is an alternative which, at any rate, I cannot see my way for practical reasons to recommend.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is the very point I was putting. I have no doubt more money could be raised in that way, but I am putting quite frankly the other point, the question of whether certain classes of the community should escape taxation altogether, and I should think if any party in this House takes the responsibility of laying down that proposal it is a very serious one indeed. What it really means is that, whereas the bulk of the authority and power is vested in one class, the whole burden of the responsibility would rest upon another. This is not the first time I have laid down this doctrine by any means. I do not think it is a sound principle of government. I agree that the Tea Duty bears heavily on a very poor class of the population, and if it were possible to find some other means of reaching the wage-earning classes without putting this burden upon the poorest of them—I am not so sure there are not other methods, but I am certain whoever proposes them would meet with a measure of unpopularity which it would be very difficult to overcome, at least for some time. It would be worse than contributory insurance. One of the peculiarities of the party system is that the moment you do a thing of that sort 1576 the party in opposition for the time being is almost driven to take advantage of any proposal of that character. The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite sure his virtue, at any rate, would be superior to any inducements of that character. I daresay they would, but my experience has not been a very encouraging one in the last year, when proposals were made by which the working classes were invited to contribute to a system which should benefit them. I think hon. Gentlemen opposite are incurring a very great responsibility when they are pressing forward proposals of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I had said something outside which appeared to support this proposition. I am not aware that I have. I have never advocated that policy inside or outside. I think I have been perfectly consistent in that respect. I still maintain the proposition that I laid down before. I wish it were possible to find some better method of raising revenue from the wage-earning classes of the country. I do not say this is by any means the best, but whenever I look out for alternatives I feel exactly as the right hon. Gentleman does, that the practical difficulties are so great that it would be almost impossible to overcome them, and that until we find an alternative of that kind, as long as we are incurring huge expenditure for the benefit of these classes at any rate, we cannot see our way for the moment to reduce this expenditure. If revenue were so to expand that it was possible to relieve taxation, no one would be better pleased than I should. The hon. Member (Mr. Barnes) does not realise that we have reduced taxes upon food by £5,000,000 since we came into office, and although he seems to feel that in the six years he has been supporting us he has got nothing in return, he has actually got £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 for the classes he represents. That is an enormous reduction, and it is one which has occurred at the time when general taxation has gone up, so that there has been a reduction in the amount of indirect taxes and at the same time a considerable increase in the direct taxes. I want my hon. Friends to bear that in mind. An hon. Gentleman interrupted one of my hon. Friends and said, "What about the surplus of £6,000,000?" As he knows, half that is savings from the Navy, or rather spendings which will have to be incurred again, and with regard to the rest, the expenditure has gone up so much more in the course of 1577 this year, more especially on the Navy, that I should be very glad if it were possible to reduce the Tea Duty, and I very regretfully say it is impossible to do so.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The right hon. Gentleman says we are entitled to vote for a reduction of this duty, because the only alternative we put forward is one that he cannot accept. That means that the Opposition is never to move a reduction of any duty under any circumstances, because it is quite obvious that the Government of the day would never accept any proposition except that which was contained in their Budget. Therefore I do not feel oppressed by that observation at all. He next dealt with the observations of the hon. Member (Mr. Lansbury) and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) in reference to the Radical cry of a free breakfast table. He must have it one way or the other. The right hon. Gentleman writes to his supporters in by-elections with great regularity and expresses his views rather vaguely, I admit, but with considerable vigour, but there is no word of reproof for their advocacy of a free breakfast table. They are allowed to go and get as many votes as they can by advocating a free breakfast table. Then he comes to the House and says, with great emphasis and a great air of conviction, that he cannot assent even to a reduction of the Tea Duty. I do not think that is fair. Either he is duping or allowing his followers to dupe the electors in the country or he is trying to mislead his followers in this House. He said, theoretically, there were many better methods of raising a contribution to the taxation of the country from the working classes, but if they were examined none of them would answer. I am not convinced, I must say quite honestly, that that is so. I share the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty in putting the whole burden of taxation upon the Income Tax payer as he is at present constituted. I agree that it would be a very bad plan to do it even in the interests of the working classes. I do not agree with the view held of taxation that by putting it on the rich it is the rich only who pay. That has always appeared to me to be a fallacy. I believe all taxes fall ultimately on the same people. I do not believe it matters ultimately who pays in the first instance. I do not mean to say that you may not inflict great hardship on individual members of a particular class by suddenly putting a burden on those individuals, but when the taxation 1578 has had time to settle down and you leave it for a certain number of years unaltered, I believe the burden of taxation falls ultimately on the same shoulders, and that it is shared, in proportions which it is very difficult to estimate, by the whole body of the taxpayers of the country. It is indeed my objection to the policy which he has constantly put forward and advocated, more on platforms than in this House, that he is going to give a boon to the poor by putting more taxation on the rich. I do not think that is practicable, and it would be very dishonest if it were.
I dissent from the argument of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) who stated that he desires to raise the whole of the taxation of this country by putting it on the Income Tax, not only because I think it would be very unfair to existing Income Tax payers, but because it would be enacting the worst form of indirect taxation on the poor. The great objection which used to be stated to indirect taxation was that people paid it without knowing what they paid, and that therefore the burden of taxation collected in that way did not tend to turn their minds to the consideration of questions of economy, and the methods by which taxation could be made to fall more equitably. The Income Tax is really the very worst form of indirect taxation, because it is, to some extent, paid by the poorest in the country, and they are quite unconscious that they are paying it. They are paying it in lessened wages, or less employment, or something of that kind, and they do not really know that that is ultimately due to the burden on the taxpayers.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
Do I understand that we are now entitled to discuss the Income Tax on this Amendment?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Of course, it would be impossible to omit altogether references to other taxes, but I think the Noble Lord, in the line he is now taking, is trenching on the discussion of a future Amendment.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I had almost finished that part of my argument. The hon. Member might have been a little more patient. I do not believe that the indefinite extension of the Income Tax—I am not satisfied that there should be a universal Income Tax—is the right way of raising money. I do not see that it would be practicable to collect it from the poorest, but I think myself there would 1579 not be great difficulty in raising it from a very much lower level of riches than that on which it is raised at the present moment, provided, of course, that it could be graduated in order to meet the hardship of any individual who had first to pay the tax. I do not see why the collection of it should be more difficult than the collection of the contribution under the Insurance Act. I observe that the Secretary to the Treasury denies that that is a tax. I do not understand the view held by hon. Gentlemen opposite as to what is a tax and what is not. It appears to me that the contribution under the Insurance Act is clearly a tax. I do not see any particular difficulty in raising taxes by collection at the source of payment. I am quite sure that if taxation could be raised in that way, if the taxes could be taken off tea and sugar, and if all indirect taxation could be entirely taken off the poorest, that would be the fairest and most honest way of raising the taxation of this country. I am not going into the other matters which have been suggested today, but I must say that I shall vote for this reduction, not because I am satisfied with all the arguments that have been adduced in favour of it, but because I am satisfied that the Tea Duty not only presses on the poorest, but is an unfair duty, because it is levied at an equal rate on all classes of tea. That does appear to me to be a duty very difficult to defend. I shall support the reduction partly as a protest against the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and partly because the duty presses unfairly on the poorest.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I wish briefly to refer to a point to which prominence has been given by the Noble Lord who has just sat down, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the point whether it is wise and politic to exempt altogether from taxation of any kind those who have very small incomes. That is the point which is really involved in this discussion on the Tea Duty, and I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was entirely opposed to the idea that we should exempt from taxes those who were very poor. That, I think, the Noble Lord agreed with.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
What I said was I am opposed to exempting the wage-earning classes from taxation for national purposes, but I did not apply this to the very poor.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
It is all a matter of what we mean by the very poor. I submit that while the Chancellor of the Exchequer is entitled to claim every credit for the reduction of indirect taxation, and, further, for the point that he made that not only has indirect taxation been actually increased, but its proportion to the general body of taxation has been reduced, which is even more important, at the same time the further point arises, are we doing enough to relieve from taxation the wage-earning classes. I am very sorry to find from what has been said in several quarters that it is supposed to be a new principle of taxation that a certain part, at any rate, of the wage-earning class should be relieved from taxation. But that is not a new point. It is not a new Socialist doctrine, as is so often thought. On this point, may I give a short quotation from John Stuart Mill, who wrote in 1848. He had been explaining, what is obvious to everyone now, but was not so obvious then, that the incidence of £5 taxation upon a small income was very much greater than the incidence upon a larger one, and he said:—The mode of adjusting these inequalities of pressure that would seem to be the most equitable is that recommended by Bentham, of leaving a certain minimum of income sufficient to provide the necessaries of life untaxed. The exemption in favour of the small income should not, I think, be stretched further than the amount of income necessary for life, health and immunity from bodily pain.There we have, in 1848, Mill quoting Bentham, the founder of modern Liberalism, that small incomes should be altogether relieved from taxation. I believe that the same principle has been traced further back still and can be attributed to even older authors. It only remains then for us to decide what is the minimum income which is necessary for life, health, and immunity from bodily pain.
§ Mr. BARNES
On a point of order. I submit that the question of exemption from taxation of very poor people is quite outside the scope of this Debate, because it would still leave poor people subject to taxation.
§ The CHAIRMAN
My impression is that each Member who has contributed to the discussion has taken it one bit further. The hon. Member for Blackfriars was one of those who did that. I think that I must trust to hon. Members. I understood the hon. Member was putting his point quite briefly, and I think it would be unfair to stop him in his reference to what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I simply wanted to put the point briefly after what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said. It only remains to decide what should be the minimum wage, but I would point out that the only plea for exemption from the Tea Duty must be on the ground that small incomes of the kind referred to ought to be exempt from taxation altogether. It is on that ground, at any rate, that I myself, under different circumstances, should be prepared to vote for the reduction of the Tea Duty. If I am not prepared to vote for it on this occasion, it is, of course, for
§ the reason, as we well know, that this Amendment is in the nature of a "hardy annual," brought forward for a certain purpose, and which can hardly expect to be treated as a serious Amendment. I earnestly hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will consider this very important point as to exempting very small incomes from taxation.
§ Question put, "That the word 'five' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 223; Noes, 183.1583
|Division No. 164.]||AYES.||[4.20 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Falconer, J.||McCallum, Sir John M.|
|Adamson, William||Farrell, James Patrick||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Ffrench, Peter||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Fitzgibbon, John||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs.,Spalding)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Manfield, Harry|
|Allen, A. A. (Dumbartonshire)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Marshall, Arthur Harry|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles Peter (Stroud)||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
|Armitage, R.||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Meagher, Michael|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Balfour, sir Robert [Lanark)||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Millar, James Duncan|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Guest, Hon. F. E. (Dorset, E.)||Molloy, Michael|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Hackett, J.||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Barton, W.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Mooney, J. J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Morgan, George Hay|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Morison, Hector|
|Bentham, G. J.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Muldoon, John|
|Black, Arthur W.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Munro, R.|
|Boland, John Pius||Harwood, George||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.|
|Boyle, D. (Mayo, N.)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Nannetti, Joseph|
|Brady, P. J.||Hayden, John Patrick||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Hayward, Evan||Neilson, Francis|
|Bryce, John Annan||Hazleton, Richard (Galway, N.)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Henry, Sir Charles S.||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Higham, John Sharp||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Hinds, John||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Cameron, Robert||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Dowd, John|
|Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Hughes, S. L.||O'Grady, James|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Jones, Rt.Hon.Sir D.Brynmor (Sw'nsea)||O'Malley, William|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Cotton, William Francis||Jones, W. S. Glyn-(T. H'mts, Stepney)||O'Shee, James John|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Joyce, Michael||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Crooks, William||Keating, Matthew||Palmer, Godfrey|
|Crumley, Patrick||Kellaway, Frederick George||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Cullinan, John||Kelly Edward||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Kilbridge, Denis||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Dawes, J. A.||King, J, (Somerset, N.)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|De Forest, Baron||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Delany, William||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Law, Hugh a. (Donegal, West)||Radford, George Heynes|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Lewis, John Herbert||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Dillon, John||Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Reddy, Michael|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lundon, T.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Doris, William||Lyell, Charles Henry||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Duffy, William J.||Lynch, A.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||McGhee, Richard||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Macpherson, James Ian||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Essex, Richard Walter||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Roche, John (Galway, E.)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley)||Webb, H.|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Rose, Sir Charles Day||Strauss, Edward, A. (Southwark, West)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Rowntree, Arnold||Summers, James Woolley||Wiles, Thomas|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radclifle)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)||Tennant, Harold John||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Schwann, Rt Hon. Sir C. E.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Scott, A. MacCailum (Glas, Bridgeton)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||Winfrey, Richard|
|Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.||Verney, Sir Harry||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Sheeny, David||Wadsworth, John|
|Sherwell, Arthur James||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Simon, Sir John Allsebrook||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay||lllingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Gilmour, Captain J.||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Goldsmith, Frank||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Grant, J. A.||Nield, Herbert|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Greene, W. R.||Norton-Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Gretton, John||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Guinness, Hon. W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Baird, J. L.||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Peel, Captain R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Barnston, Harry||Hancock, John George||Pole-Carew, Sir R.|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Harris, Henry Percy||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Rawson, Colonel R. H.|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hewins, William Herbert Samuel||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Boyton, J.||Hills, J. W.||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Royds, Edmund|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Hodge, John||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hohler, G. Fitzroy||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Butcher, J. G.||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Horne, W. E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Horner, A. L.||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Cassel, Felix||Houston, Robert Paterson||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Cator, John||Ingleby, Holcombe||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Jardine, E. (Somerset, E.)||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Jessel, Captain Herbert M.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Jowett, Frederick William||Strauss, Arthur (Paddhigton)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Joynson-Hicks, William||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Kerry, Earl of||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Knight, Captain E. A.||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Clough, William||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Lansbury, George||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lewisham, Viscount||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Lloyd, George Ambrose||Touche, George Alexander|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Locker-Lampson, 0. (Ramsey)||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Croft, H. P.||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes., Ince)|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Weigall, Captain A. G.|
|Dixon, Charles Harvey||Mackinder, Halford J.||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Macmaster, Donald||White, Major G. D. (Lanes., Southport)|
|Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.)||Malcolm, Ian||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Falle, Bertram Godfray||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Fell, Arthur||Martin, Joseph||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Gardner, Ernest||Newdegate, F. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir|
|Gastrell, Major W. H.||Newman, John R. P.||J. D. Rees and Mr. Barnes.|
|Gibbs, G. A.|
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words, "except in the case of tea between the 1584 value of one and two shillings per pound on which the duty per pound shall be four-pence, and tea of the value of one shilling 1585 or less on which the duty shall be threepence."
This Amendment, which is a much more modest proposal than the last, aims at establishing a distinction between luxuries and ordinary articles of consumption. This distinction is in fact established in other taxed articles. For instance, in connection with tobacco, there are special luxury taxes on cigars and cigarettes, which are regarded as being mainly the luxuries of the well-to-do classes, as against the ordinary tobacco used by the poor. The same is true of wine. Sparkling wines, which are par excellence the luxury of the rich, bear a special rate as compared with those of ordinary consumption. I propose to extend this principle to tea. I admit that the scheme of differentiation proposed by the Amendment has its difficulties, largely for the reason that one has to graduate downwards. As it is impossible for a private Member to propose a higher tax on the more expensive varieties of tea, one must take 5d. as the maximum and graduate down from that. I need not labour the point as to the great difference in prices of tea. They vary from 1s. 3d. up to 8s., or even more in the ease of special teas which are regarded as luxuries. I propose that the cheaper kinds should pay a lower rate of duty. In fact, my proposal approaches an ad valorem duty. It is interesting to follow the history of the Tea Duty. There have been periods in which an ad valorem tax has been levied, while in others the tax has been fixed. For forty-four years in the eighteenth century there was a tax partly by the pound, and partly ad valorem. Then for over ten years there was a uniform tax of 12½ per cent. ad valorem, which is a very much lower duty than prevails at the present time. Then came a period when it went up to 20, and afterwards to no less than 107. In 1834–5 differential rates were proposed, but not ad valorem The rates were put on the tea irrespective of the price. That system did not prevail for very long. It may be noted that Mr. Gladstone in bringing forward his financial statement in his great Budget of 1853 did not pretend that there was any great difficulty in the ad valorem rates. He proposed to simplify the duties by reducing the lower rates of the then existing duties, but he did not pretend that you could not have graduation. A former occasion on which the rate was changed was owing to complications arising from the East India monopoly, and 1586 also from the fact that different classes of tea were subject to different rates, which were, however, not ad valorem rates.
This proposal will take very much less revenue from the Chancellor of the Exchequer than the last Amendment. A great deal of it he could make up again by proposing a rate of more than 5d. on the expensive quality drunk by rich people. I submit the Amendment is a just one in principle, and I do not believe, from the experience of the past, that there could be any insuperable difficulty in carrying it out. Anyhow, the Minister who says that the Insurance Act is only a beginning is not, I think, the man to allow himself to be baffled by technical difficulties. I am quite sure he will be able to get out of them, and if he were in any difficulty on technical points I have no doubt his friend Lord Devonport, who is an expert authority on this subject, would be able to suggest some means out. I think this proposal is a perfectly fair and a perfectly reasonable one. While not sparing any class of tea drinker, it does carry out the principle which finds agreement on the opposite side, that the luxuries of the rich should pay a higher duty than the comforts of the poor.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I am not quite sure whether I should treat this Amendment very seriously. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I am coming to that in a moment. This subject was fully debated in 1905 towards the end of the term of the last Government, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire countered every single argument advanced by the hon. Member. More, the hon. Member himself went into the Lobby against what is now his own proposal.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The hon. Gentleman has not given us the advantage of that knowledge then. He has merely repeated the arguments which were repeated in the course of that Debate, and which proved so entirely unconvincing to him on the occasion I refer to.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
April. I should have thought the hon. Gentleman, before putting 1587 forward this proposal, would have refreshed his memory by turning to that Debate. The hon. Member will find his name marked on the Division List.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
May I ask the hon. Gentleman one question? Does he raise this point in favour of the trade. Does he come here armed with authority from the tea dealers and the traders of this country, or has there been any desire expressed on their part for the change proposed by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Is it in the interest of the trade or of the consumer that the hon. Gentleman makes this proposal? So far as I can ascertain the trade are not at all in agreement with the proposal of the hon. Gentleman because it is not possible to collect duties of the kind he proposes. One thing is quite clear, it would be most difficult for the Customs authorities to estimate the duties as between the wholesale and the retail price when the tea would reach the consumer in the retail shops. Prices realised in the market are entirely different to those realised by the shopkeeper, and it would be almost impossible for the Customs Department in this country to divide the tea imported into this country and to classify it so as to obtain the different prices suggested by the hon. Member. I do not intend to weary the Committee repeating the arguments put forward by the right hon. Gentleman for East Worcester six years ago in opposition to a similar Amendment. The Amendment is not practical or desirable, and will not bring any relief to the poorer classes because in certain parts of Ireland, and in this country a great deal of the most highly priced tea is bought. Poor people insist upon the higher priced tea of the best quality, while the people who are far better off are content to buy cheap and rubbishy tea.
§ Mr. HOPE
Belief will be given to the poorer people who buy the cheaper class of tea. That is quite certain. All the objection the right hon. Gentleman makes is that it would not be practicable. But it used to be done, and it was up to 1853, and Mr. Gladstone did not make anything of it when he proposed a uniform rate. He only said then that an ad valorem rate in addition to a fixed rate did not bring in very much. But there was a mixed system and you had a proportionate duty. I do not believe that a Government which has brought about so many changes in far more difficult matters really could not find an easy way to get out of this difficulty.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I do not want to press this matter, but I think my hon. Friend has some cause to complain when the Chancellor of the Duchy rebukes him with inconsistency. I have been making a rapid calculation of the number of hon. Gentlemen opposite who voted for this proposal on the occasion to which the Chancellor of the Duchy has alluded, I mean those who are or have been Members of this Government, including those who have been otherwise provided for and who have ceased to be Members of this House. I gather from that calculation that about twenty-five Members of the Government have committed themselves to this principle, and therefore I think the Chancellor of the Duchy is treating them with scant courtesy. For one, there is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his days of greater freedom and less responsibility, although he assumes great freedom now— I do not think he would repeat that vote in his present position. I think it sits ill on the Chancellor of the Duchy to take these lofty airs when the record of his colleagues is such a shady one.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 158; Noes, 237.1591
|Division No. 165.]||AYES.||[4.45 P.m.|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Gibbs, G. A.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Goldsmith, Frank||Nield, Herbert|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Grant, J. A.||Norton-Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Greene, W. R.||O'Grady, James|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid.)|
|Baird, J. L.||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Haddock, George Bahr||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Hall, D. B. (lsle of Wight)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Peel, Captain R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Barnston, Harry||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc, E.J||Hamersley, A. St. George||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilton)||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pole-Carew, Sir R.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Harris, Henry Percy||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Boyle, W. L. (Norfolk, Mid)||Hickman, Col. T. E.||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Boyton, J.||Hills, J. W.||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hohler, G. Fitzroy||Royds, Edmund|
|Butcher, J. G.||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Horne, W. E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Horner, Andrew Long||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Carson, Ft. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Houston, Robert Paterson||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Cassel, Felix||Hume-Williams, W. E.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||lngleby, Holcombe||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Cator, John||Jardine, E. (Somerset, E.)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Cautley, H. S.||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Jowett, F. W.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, N.)|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Kerry, Earl of||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Knight, Capt. E. A.||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Lansbury, George||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lewisham, Viscount||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Craig, Norman (Kent)||Lloyd, G. A.||Touche, George Alexander|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Dalziel, D (Brixton)||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. Sir G. Scott||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (Hanover Sq.)||Weigall, Capt A. G.|
|Dixon, C. H.||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Mackinder, H. J.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||Macmaster, Donald||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhougthon)|
|Falle, B. G.||Malcolm, Ian||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Fitzroy, Hon. E. A.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||Newdegate, F. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Gardner, Ernest||Newman, John R. P.||James Hope and Mr. Fell.|
|Gastrell, Major W. H.||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Boyle, D. (Mayo, N.)||De Forest, Baron|
|Adamson, William||Brady, P. J.||Delany, William|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Brocklehurst, W. B.||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Bryce, J. Annan||Devlin, Joseph|
|Allen, Arthur Acland (Dumbartonshire)||Burke, E. Haviland-||Dickinson, W. H.|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Dillon, John|
|Armitage, R.||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk)||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C, (Poplar)||Doris, W.|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Byles, Sir William Pollard||Duffy, William|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Cameron, Robert||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Chancellor, H. G.||Elverston, Sir Harold|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Clancy, John Joseph||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Clough, William||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Essex, Richard Walter|
|Barnes, George N.||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Falconer, J.|
|Barton, W.||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Farrell, James Patrick|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Ffrench, Peter|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Cotton, William Francis||Fitzglbbon, John|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Crooks, William||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd|
|Bentham, G. J.||Crumley, Patrick||Gladstone, W. G. C.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Cullinan, J.||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)|
|Boland, John Plus||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Dawes, J. A.||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Macveagh, Jeremiah||Radford, G. H.|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||McCallum, Sir John M||Rattan, Peter Wilson|
|Hackett, John||M'Kean, John||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Hancock, J. G.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Reddy, M.|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs.,Spalding)||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Manfield, Harry||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Martin, J.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Harwood, George||Meagher, Michael||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Meehan, Francis (Leitrim, N.)||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Menzies, Sir Walter||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Millar, James Duncan||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Hayward, Evan||Molloy, M.||Rowlands, James|
|Hazleton, Richard (Galway, N.)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Mooney, J. J.||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir C. E.|
|Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Morgan, George Hay||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Henry, Sir Charles||Morrell, Philip||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Higham, John Sharp||Morison, Hector||Sheehy, David|
|Hinds, John||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Muldoon, John||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Hodge, John||Munro, R.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Howard, John Geoffrey||Murray, Captain, Hon. A. C.||Summers, James Woolley|
|Hudson, Walter||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Needham, Christopher||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Neilson, Francis||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Jones, Rt.Hon.Sir D.Brynmor (Sw'nsea)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nolan, Joseph||Thomas, James Henry (Drby)|
|Jonas, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Norman, Sir Henry||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Joyce, Michael||Nugent, Sir Walter R.||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Keating, M.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wadsworth, John|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes, Ince)|
|Kelly, Edward||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||O'Doherty, Philip||Wardle, G. J.|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Dowd, John||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|King, J.||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Malley, William||Webb, H.|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Lawson, Sir w. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||O'Shee, James John||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Palmer, Godfrey||Wiles, Thamas|
|Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Lundon, T.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Williamson, Sir A.|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Lynch, A. A.||Pollard, Sir George H.||Winfrey, Richard|
|McGhee, Richard||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Macpherson, James Ian||Pringle, William M. R.||lllingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.