HC Deb 30 April 1913 vol 52 cc1216-8

I beg to move, "That leave he given to introduce a Bill to prohibit the use of hops substitutes and to provide for the marking of imported hops."

4.0 P.M.

This Bill is drafted to carry out two of the recommendations of the Select Committee on the hop industry which reported in 1908—I think the only two recommendations upon which the Committee was entirely agreed. The using of hop substitute has been the cause for a very long period of a popular demand for legislation. This demand, of course, is most noticeable in those districts in which hops are grown, and the motive, no doubt, in those places, was a desire to be protected against what was considered, and I think rightly considered, as illegitimate competition with a legitimate industry. But there were other motives besides that. Many people supported this demand on grounds of hygiene, and even on grounds of temperance, because it was considered, and I believe it is a scientific fact, that many of the chemical substances which are used—not, I am glad to say, in large quantities—in substitution of hops in brewing are not only unwholesome, but tend to promote thirst, and consequently intemperance. But be the motives what they may, in 1908 a Select Committee was appointed to consider these questions under the chairmanship of Sir William Collins. That Committee reported in favour of the total prohibition of hop substitutes by legislation, and of the compulsory marking of imported hops. In addition to that Report, two alternative draft Reports were submitted which were not adopted, but both contained the same recommendation on these two points. It is true to say that during the whole course of the proceedings before the Committee no substantial opposition was brought forward by any body of witnesses against these two proposals. I should like to read a few lines from the Report of the Select Committee. Perhaps the most important words dealing with the subject are these— Growers and brewers appear to be generally agreed that hop substitutes can be safely dispensed with. They cannot in any true sense supply the peculiar properties of the hop, they introduce an unnecessary and a foreign element into the process of brewing, they may be the source of dangerous contamination, and, in the opinion of your Committee, their employment should be prohibited by the Legislature. I am glad to say that the quantities of hop substitutes are not now, and for a long period have not been, very great, but they include certain substitutes of which the use in even small quantities is eminently undesirable. In the list given by the Select Committee they mention quassia, chiretta, gentian, camomile, and a substitute known as "Hop Compo," which was found to contain large quantities of arsenic and antimony. It is not necessary to go through the whole list to make good one's case that substitutes of that kind should not be used. The quantities in use are believed to be small, but we have no very definite information. Although it appears in the brewing books kept by the Excise authorities that substitutes are used, there is no power to compel the disclosure of either the nature or the quantities of the substitutes. Still, so far as public information goes, the total quantity in 1911 was 4,900 lbs., a very small quantity, but the alarming fact is disclosed in a White Paper, which was laid upon the Table only a few days ago, that the figures in 1912 had increased to close upon 30,000 lbs.—an increase of 500 per cent. in a single year. If that increase is allowed to continue, it may easily become a very serious matter. I have no desire to interfere in the least with legitimate brewing. The fact that this Bill will not so interfere is proved, in the first place, by the extract from the Report which I have read, and, secondly, and even more forcibly, by the fact that, if I am allowed to introduce the measure, the names on the back of it will include those of the hon. Member for the Rutland Division (Mr. Gretton) and the hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs (Sir George Younger), two of the best known representatives of the brewing industry in the country, while in an humbler capacity I am also a brewer.

I turn now to the marking proposals. Here we find a public demand in the hop-growing districts. Here, again, we find a unanimous recommendation by the Select Committee, and we find also that there is no very substantial opposition from any source to these proposals. It is certain that to apply, so far as practicable, to imported hops similar regulations as to marking as are applied already to British grown hops must tend to the prevention of fraud. It may also tend to advertise good brands of imported hops. In the one case it will no doubt assist English growers, and in the other case it may to a certain extent do the reverse, but in any case, from the public point of view, it is desirable that buyers should know what they are buying, and that similar restrictions should be applied, so far as possible, to hops coming into our markets. In the first place both sets of proposals contained in the Bill are desired by the sections of the public which are mainly concerned; secondly, they are not subject to any substantial opposition from any section of the community; and, thirdly, they are supported by the unanimous recommendations of the Select Committee, and it is on these grounds that I ask leave to introduce the Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Courthope, Mr. Gretton, Mr. Hewins, Colonel Warde, Captain Spender Clay, Mr. Ronald M'Neill, Captain Clive, Mr. William Horne, Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Wheler, Mr. Wright, and Sir George Younger. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Tuesday, 3rd June, and to be printed. [Bill 137.]